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  • Writer's pictureAnushka Chaturvedi

Feminization of Poverty in India: Need for a Reformed Approach

Men have too much Power and Women too much Work. - Polish Commentator[1]

Poverty is a global social impediment; however, women tend to be most vulnerable to poverty. Diana Pearce in 1976 coined a term for this “feminization of poverty”, following the observation of women in America. She observed that two-thirds of the poor were women over the age of 16 and an increasingly large number were from economically disadvantaged groups.[2] Women face a higher intensity of poverty than men in all nations. Poverty is a multi-dimensional lack of resources which may differ from family to family but the gender that is most exposed by poverty is females. When the families experience less or no earnings the first thing that is cut down is the requirements of the females. Fundamental causes of the feminization of poverty are single working members in the family, usually, women are given the responsibility of household and care giving which is a huge amount of work without any monetary benefit.

Unemployment rates for women are highest in India, there is a difference of 52% in the employment rates of males and females in India it’s due to various reasons inequality in the availability of jobs as some of the jobs are associated with or specified only for males.[3] Women only fit in the few jobs perfectly like teaching, medicine, beauticians, and designers. Though times have changed and women are trying their hands and being successful in all the fields.

Femininization of Poverty is a collective effect of several factors, be it access to education or lack of health facilities that are available for women. Though access to education is the biggest factor, even today in many household parents think that it’s better to invest in a male child than in a female child as sooner or later they will go away and be part of another family. Due to which women are not able to qualify the eligibility criteria for the job even if they want to work and sometimes, they end up with a very basic job or no job at all. In many cases women are suggested not to work and look after the household as their husbands are in good positions, therefore, they can support them, in such scenarios women depend on their husband’s income for a lifetime and have nothing of their own, they lose their self-esteem, decision making power, and sometimes entirely controlled by others. They seek permission for everything that they want to do if permissions are granted, they can pursue whatever they want to do else they just have to terminate their wishes and desires. A lot of recruiters do not want to hire females as they think that they will be having responsibilities of their household therefore they will not be able to do justice with their work. Other than these the unequal pay is also a grave concern; mostly females are paid less than males doing the same jobs.[4] The ones who suffer the most are the single mothers, elderly women, women who have lost their breadwinners who do not have any other source of income, women who are from the lower socio-economic background.

According to UNIFEM (2000) women make up 70% of the world’s 1.3 billion poor[5], and this figure is constantly increasing. If this issue is not acknowledged and conventional steps are not taken to minimize it, then all the programs run to empower women will be a waste because the above-mentioned problems are rooted in our system and faced by all the females irrespective of their positions in society.

Feminization of Poverty can be eradicated by practicing equity, presenting resources for the woman, practicing gender equality in term of pay which has the main impact on what kind of life a woman is living. Once this issue is eradicated women will be able to exercise and enjoy their rights, which are exercised by only a few women today. Major aspects that are required to be worked upon are ideological changes that promote equality, create opportunities for economic empowerment of women through macro socio-economic reform.

Problems faced by women but can be seen by everyone, feminist ideologies have been in practice for a few years now promoting women’s rights and improving the status of women in our society, but it is needed that men voicing their problems and encouraging others to bring the change, it is needed to understand patriarchy from a woman perspective. Deeply rooted values and beliefs that have a direct impact on gender roles need to be addressed and changed as required. Intervention programs and policies that are designed for disadvantaged women sometimes do not reach the women who need them, therefore more effective ways should be used so that these policies and programs can be used effectively for the empowerment of people.

Families need to be sensitized towards gender roles and gender norms and new schemes. Monetary support is provided to the parents of the girl child under various schemes still only 3 out of 4 girls complete their secondary education[6], it is believed other than monetary support it’s very important to explain the importance of educating girls to their parents. Education loans should be made accessible to young girls. Easily approachable skill training centers should be set up. Access to a medical facility for women. To improve the living conditions and position of the women in our society, we need to look into the embedded problems of our system, and patriarchal beliefs that are instilled in our society and rectify them so that even women can have access to their democratic rights and live their lives with dignity, and are not treated as second class citizens.

[1] Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg & Eleanor Kremen, The Feminization of Poverty: Only in America? (Praeger Publishers Inc 1990) [2] Vasintha Veeran, Feminization of Poverty, (Conference Paper: International Conference of the International Association of the Schools of Social Work, 2000) vol. 29 [3] Kundan Pandey, ‘India has one of the highest unemployment rates in Women’ (Down to Earth, 5 December 2019) <> accessed on 27 July 2021 [4] Nilanjana Chakraborty, ‘What is gender pay gap and why is it so wide in India’ (Live Mint, 3 December 2019) <> accessed on 29 July 2021 [5] Vasintha (n 2) [6] Education Desk, ‘Girls enrolment in schools on the rise, their dropout remains high; here’s Why?’ (The Indian Express, 8 March 2019 <> accessed on 29 July 2021

*The author of this post is Anushka Chaturvedi, she is currently a postgraduate student at Amity University, Lucknow and an alumnus of Isabella Thoburn College, Lucknow. She can be reached at

Image Source: Borgen Magazine

Article Number: 2021/LNLR/08B09


The views expressed in this article belong to the author/s and do not necessarily reflect those of the Journal.

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