The International Handbook of Gender and Poverty
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The International Handbook of Gender and Poverty

Concepts, Research, Policy

Edited by Sylvia Chant

In the interests of contextualising (and nuancing) the multiple interrelations between gender and poverty, Sylvia Chant has gathered writings on diverse aspects of the subject from a range of disciplinary and professional perspectives, achieving extensive thematic as well as geographical coverage. This benchmark volume presents women’s and men’s experiences of gendered poverty with respect to a vast spectrum of intersecting issues including local to global economic transformations, family, age, ‘race’, migration, assets, paid and unpaid work, health, sexuality, human rights, and conflict and violence.
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Chapter 15: Towards a (Re)Conceptualisation of the ‘Feminisation of Poverty’: Reflections on Gender-differentiated Poverty from The Gambia, Philippines and Costa Rica

Sylvia Chant


Sylvia Chant Based on comparative field research with women and men from different age groups in The Gambia, Philippines and Costa Rica,1 this chapter reflects on the applicability of the ‘feminisation of poverty’ to depict contemporary trends in gendered disadvantage. It starts by tracing the evolution and components of this ‘pithy and polyvalent phrase’ (Molyneux, 2007: 18), and proceeds to a brief a priori critique. This is followed by discussion of evidence for a ‘feminisation of poverty’ from the three case study countries, from which revisions to the construct are drawn out. The latter include: (1) paying less exclusive attention to incomes in favour of inputs (such as labour and time) into household livelihoods, (2) abandoning the conventional emphasis on female-headed households at the expense of male-headed units, and (3) acknowledging the dynamics of power and obligation around poverty. Such changes would afford the ‘feminisation of poverty’ greater scope to encapsulate issues of particular relevance for women, especially the burden they shoulder for dealing with poverty. The proposed revisions might, in turn, provide a more fruitful entry point for policy interventions. The ‘feminisation of poverty’: origins, evolution and an a priori critique The ‘feminisation of poverty’ acquired something of its current status as a global ‘orthodoxy’ in 1995, when, at the Fourth World Conference on Women, it was asserted that 70 per cent of the world’s poor were female, and eradication of the ‘persistent and increasing burden of poverty on women’ was adopted as one of the twelve arms...

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