The winner of Viewpoint, an essay contest to commemorate 25 years of Beijing Platform for Action, was this essay by Berneth Pramila
Poverty can be understood as scarcity of money. A woman’s poverty is a state when she cannot afford to earn money for livelihood. The structural roots leading to such a status can be unemployment which leads us to uneducated or under-educated women. This maybe followed by early marriage of girls, several child births, unequal treatment by the husband and his family in financial decisions, threat and harassment regarding her employment at the workplace, pay gaps, inequality of representation in decision making boards, committees, institutions, and even in parliament.
The socio-economic-political, religious, and cultural beliefs, norms and sanctions that are predominantly developed and maintained by the male population play a key role in sustaining women in the poverty state. A girl child is treated secondary and ignored against the male child in all aspects including nutrition, education, and property rights. She is rarely introduced to reasoning, thinking, decision-making, and qualities that will groom her into a potential, capable, and independent human being; especially economic independence is almost never taught or developed in the girl child. She is thus always a dependent on others at all stages of her life.
Even though culturally and religiously a woman still faces the threat of poverty, nowadays there are many changes taking place in socio-economic and political arenas due to globalisation. Education is the key factor for women’s employment and self-awareness. Technological progress and its availability also have created tremendous awareness in women about other pioneering women that are independent, prosperous, and self-deciding.
Realization and acknowledging by families, particularly by men, that women are equals and partners by birth and in life, might bring about much more development and progress in alleviating and chopping off these structural roots of women’s poverty. The government and policy makers need to play a pivotal role in introducing and implementing programs and laws that bring about awareness, upliftment, and societal change in the status of women. This also will have a much broader reach for women in remote and tribal areas.