Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Gender and Poverty group discussion

As part of our placement here at IS we are required to do group discussions on various development topics every two weeks. Topics we have previously covered include the environment and development, the relationship between corruption and aid agencies, and the disputed success of the Millennium Development Goals.

Last week, Ola and Hannah led a discussion on gender and poverty. First of all, we discussed in general terms how gender and poverty affect each other, before moving on to discuss the issues in more depth.

It was surprising to most of the team that 70% of people that live in absolute poverty in the world are women. We discussed whether gender is the main reason for this inequality and most agreed it is not and there are other factors to take into account. However, our society’s cultural ties to gender do need to be challenged and changed.

The importance of culture was questioned further and we discussed whether it is education that tends to be the root of gender equality or other factors. Therri outlined her views on enforcing quotas to increase the proportion of women in senior positions as only then will funding and time be found to invest in women. Dan challenged this view, pointing out that quotas can be misused and if they are used they must be in the short term and they are not a permanent solution.

Hannah then questioned how we thought quotas in the UK could affect women in the developing world. It was agreed that developing countries should lead by example. Nasim felt strongly that in many developing countries, the older generation, who often hold old fashioned views on gender, would be challenged effectively if the western world led by example.

Following on from this, Ola questioned what our thoughts were on the role of gender here in Ghana. We all agreed that the women are generally very hard working. There are many women here that own small businesses. But these jobs are mostly petty and require minimal training. Women are expected to be housewives, while husbands bring in the money. There is a predominant trend that women leave school early, in order to start a family or to bring in a small wage. They sacrifice the chance of a higher income in the long term for the minimal income they can make in the meantime. It was then pointed out that these women are not educated to a level at which they have the power to stand up against the cultural norms around them. But these cultural issues are not just a women's task to challenge, but both men and women’s. This is not feminism, it’s gender equality.

Overall, we have all found the discussions very informative, and have all equally added and enriched the conversations that at times got a bit heated! I think we learnt a lot about each other’s world views and opinions.

Bel Wood

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