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 19: Poverty and Female-headed Households in Post-genocide Rwanda

Marian Koster


Marian Koster Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa. It is also one of the poorest, with a GNI per capita of US$230. In 2001, 60 per cent of the total population lived below the poverty line. In the rural areas, where most Rwandans live, this level was as high as 66 per cent. Despite the fact that the proportion of the poor fell to 57 per cent in 2006, the total number of Rwandans living in poverty increased to 5.4 million in that year, compared with 4.8 million in 2001. As a result of the genocide in 1994, the proportion of female-headed households increased considerably, from 25 per cent in 1991 to 34 per cent in 1996. The majority of these are headed by widows. In the literature on the ‘feminisation of poverty’, femaleheaded households are usually depicted as belonging to ‘the poorest of the poor’ (see Chant, 2004; Tinker, 1990). The assumed poverty of female-headed households is linked to women’s disadvantage with respect to ‘either assets or activities, or some combination of both, linked to inequalities of access to resources and income-generating opportunities’ (Ellis, 2000: 141). However, even when female-headed households are disadvantaged in terms of access to resources like land, livestock, credit, education, and health care, it is not necessarily the case that they are poorer than male-headed households in terms of income (see Chant, 2004, and Chapter 15, this volume). Empirical evidence of the poverty status of female-headed households in post-genocide...

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