African Women and Economic Development: A Tale of Contradictions?

African Women and Economic Development: A Tale of Contradictions?

Lanoi Maloiy (African Women Studies Centre, University of Nairobi, Kenya)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3247-7.ch023
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There is a recognition that African women are amongst the world's poorest; however, they are also the most industrious. As such, African women's lives present a contradiction. This chapter examines the contradictory nature of African women's lives using a case study of Kenyan women. A possible reason for this contradiction is that African women face many barriers when attempting to access education, careers, and economic resources. These barriers often originate from political, social, and cultural factors. Given the prominence and extent of these barriers, it is important to not only identify them but to comprehend them as well. The chapter examines how these factors contribute to the feminization of poverty in Africa with a particular focus on Kenya.
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Main Focus Of The Chapter

Women experience poverty differently from men. Scholars have often used the phrase ‘feminization of poverty’ when referring to women. The phrase ‘feminization of poverty’ was first employed by Diane Pearce (1976) and suggests that women tend to be poorer than men. Women consist of a majority of the world’s poor, and poverty tends to affect women more persistently than men (Chant, 2007). McFerson (2010) suggests that poverty originates from exclusion, lack of opportunities and little to no income or assets. She reports that poverty which includes all these four aspects can be the most damaging.

The factors that contribute to the feminization of poverty in Africa are complicated (Topouzis, 1990). This is mirrored in recent scholarship on women’s welfare in Africa. Scholars state:

…women are especially susceptible to poverty due to a multiple of factors including inequalities engrained in cultural practices, which favour male control of resources; lack of productive assets; limited economic opportunities; weak attachment to the labour market; lower average earnings; and other gender-based injustices (Lombe, Safadi, Carrington, Mabbike & Lombe, 2014).

Key Terms in this Chapter

African Women: Defined as a group of women from various African countries; they are termed as a group for methodological convenience.

Economic Empowerment: Defined as being able to take part in process or activities that provide them with an income and stability.

Poverty: It is defined as not only not having any income to support one’s need and but also when one has difficulty in accessing education, careers, and health and welfare services.

Patriarchy: Structures or attitudes that are used to provide men power over women.

Feminization of Poverty: The tendency for women to be poorer than men and experience poverty more acutely than their male counterparts.

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