Gender Stratification and Women in Developing Nations|
Sociology – SOC/120Michelle March, PhDMarch 20, 2011Charlene W.| |
Gender Stratification and Women in Developing Nations
Gender stratification and women in developing nations is a serious issue women struggle to overcome. They are not respected by their own husbands let alone others within their communities. Women are forced to work in deplorable conditions with no financial rewards. They are denied jobs, education, healthcare and resources to provide good healthy homes for their children. Even in the United States where women are independent and hold many male-dominated professions there are still situation of gender discrimination. “Developing” nation is a word often used to describe underdeveloped, peripheral, or less developed countries. Women constantly struggle to hold their own in these developing nations. The responsibility to care for and support their families along with the added burden of finding the resources to accomplish it makes life hard on women in these countries. In 1960 The Modernization Theory was introduced to these countries encouraging the change from traditional, technologically simple to the modern industrialized nation. The theory was to provide these nations with the technological knowledge to develop “Western-style institutions and market-based economies.” Policymakers based their theory on statistic from Europe and the United States as a basis for establishing standard economic and political policies. The developing nations found the theory to have little association with the experiences of their countries. In response to the push for modernization theory, the development of the dependency theory came about. Clearly this push for development was to come at the expense of the host country. These countries began producing their own goods so they were not dependent on the developed nations. The view of the dependency theory was that developed nations found it beneficial for these countries to remain underdeveloped. Whereas big corporations often relied on the natural resources and cheap labor, found in these countries, to maximize their profits (Wermuth & Monges, 2002). The role that women play in developing nations, such as Africa, is very important. However, women are not given credit for their contribution to the development taking place. “Unrecognized as full partners either in the family or in society, women have been denied equal access to education, job training, employment, health care, ownership and political power” (Anunobi, 2003, p. 62). The effects of economical and political problems in Africa make life difficult for men and women. The societal concerns of their community include the lack of opportunity, poverty, and inequality within their countries. The female is generally the main supporter of the family, she is responsible for the children and making sure they are fed and cared for. The increased establishment of commercialized agriculture has added to the burden of these women. The men were provided with commercial opportunities by selling their crops for money, and acting on their rights to land and the labor of their wives for their own benefit. In some areas men have many wives to work their land as free labor, and they are not obligated to share their profits with the family. “Gender bias is especially pernicious in African nations where most of women’s activity takes place in the non-wage economy” (Anunobi, 2003, p.69). Womens’ work was basically for survival and not wage earning therefore they were not seen as being economically productive. The men used their wives and children as laborers in their family fields to produce crops taken into town and sold from money. The wife was forced to perform the domestic duties for her husband and yet she was not able to claim any share of his income. This gave further opportunity for men to expand their land ownership and financial stability. However, the burden of caring for the family was placed on the female. Unable to obtain jobs of their own many women resorted to selling sex, food, or other domestic services to other men to support their families. “In parts of the region, rural tribal authorities were given the right to prevent unmarried women and children from moving to the towns, and urban authorities had the power to send those who defied such restrictions back to the villages” (Anunobi, 2003, p.67). This left women virtually helpless against the stronger more powerful men of their nation. Unable to own property or be a part of decision making for their families, these women themselves have become a form of property to be controlled. It was purely a survival tactic for women to stay with their husbands because, if divorced, they had no rights to the wealth that she helped her husband to obtain thus further compounding her economic vulnerability. “Gender bias or gender discrimination is thus a fundamental cause of poverty in its various forms it prevents hundreds of millions of women from obtaining the education, training, health services, childcare, and legal status needed to escape from poverty” (Anunobi, 2003, p.69). This bias against women is a major contributor to the high birth rates in the developing nations. Unable to control their family income or have access to productive resources, the children are forms of social status and economic security for these women. To reduce the number of children being born into poverty is to increase the womans’ productivity and give her control over resources. “In poor households, women and girls are generally allocated less food than men and boys; two thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are women. Women tend to be more malnourished, less educated and less involved in public decision making than men” (Alvarez-Castillo & Feinholz, 2006, p.115). It is clear to see that women in poor developing countries have very little command over productive resources. Women are not able to obtain title to land in their own name and have no legal right to the land of their husbands. Even upon the death of a husband, the widow has no legal right to the marital property. It is the combination of all these disadvantages against women in developing nations that keep them from gaining independence and self control. Women were seen and not heard, as they did not complain or disagree with their husband as they were oftentimes beaten. In an effort to combat these inequalities the poor and peasant women formed self help groups to aid one another in their efforts toward equality. It is these groups that provid economic assistance, credit for farming, childcare and, assistance toward business ventures. The husbands were powerless over these groups of women, unlike the power they hold over their wives. The women’s groups made huge strides in improving the lives of women and the welfare of their families and communities. The greatest problem for these groups was the lack of challenging the gender roles that kept them subordinate to males, and because of the gender division the wealth and power remained primarily to the men. “Development should encourage more cooperation between the sexes with the goal of ending poverty, reducing fertility, and securing the environment” (Anunobi, 2003, p.74). Improving the status of women and allowing them to be a vital part of improving the economic and industrial aspects of their nation will benefit and establish an environment in which women and men can prosper together. “The front line in the struggle for women’s rights appears to lie in the poorest, most patriarchal, least democratic nations” (Walker, 2005, p.32). The Women’s rights campaign focus mainly on the underdeveloped nations. Women are beaten in the Middle East for not adorning the traditional Islamic clothing. In Afghanistan women are abused and deprived of their legal rights with or without the Taliban. The Pakistani women endure domestic violence and “honour crimes” in which they are attacked with acid. (Walker, 2005) This is a continuous struggle to establish universal women’s rights within these poor developing countries. The sad truth is “developed countries hardly offer a good example in their treatment of women – in fact they help make things worse” (Walker, 2005, p.32). In Japan, pornography and its display is a common site in the mainstream of their society. Men are known to frequent bars offering expensive sexual service of women. These women are typically being trafficked from the Philippine nations in hopes of alleviating the poverty of their families at home. The control of men over women’s sexuality goes beyond that of social behavior and employment. Contraception was not legal for women until the availability of the pill in 1999, and still many physicians refuse to prescribe it. The Japanese nation may be a technical pioneer and one of the biggest global aid contributors but the treatment shown to the women in this nation is far less advanced (Walker, 2005). Examining the United States and its support of human rights; the United States is labeled as the world leader in this area. Women represent two thirds of poor Americans, and the majority of households living below poverty level are headed by females. Many American women are deprived of healthcare and those who do have coverage are 68% more likely to pay more out-of-pocket expense (Walker, 2005). “According to Amnesty USA, guns in American homes increase the risk of someone in a household being murdered by 41%, but for women the risk increases by 272%” (Walker, 2005, p.33). These statistics are not that surprising as 85% of women in the United States are victims of domestic violence (Walker, 2005). Unfortunately, these instances of abuse on women’s rights are generally seen as isolated instances in the United States, unlike the widespread abuse of women’s rights in developing countries. The unbalanced relationship seen between women themselves is somewhat disturbing. This is displayed when women hire cheap foreign nannies to care for their children or buy clothing made in sweatshops. If women play a role in the gender-bias system they are just as capable of fighting to change it. The familiar image of poor women is seen as very similar, yet approached somewhat differently. The women who live in the third world are seen as victims of poverty in a developing country. The other women live in America and are referred to as the “welfare queen” (Mehta, 2009). These images both portray women of poverty and powerlessness, yet each images paints a different picture of their lives. The United States foreign policy makers and international development institutions strive to remedy this image of Third World women by encouraging them through empowerment; so they can be an asset to their families and community. Development policies have supported women’s rights and increasing their economic and educational opportunities. Local community centers were developed to provide poor women with education and job skills to start their own business. On the other hand, a completely different message is sent about the image of the welfare queen. She is seen as being lazy and unwilling to work and a burden on her family and community. The reform laws did little to build their level of education, or potential to be leaders within their communities. Instead there were limits on the single mother’s receipt of aid, family caps on additional children born while on welfare, and taking away benefits from those mothers who are attending school. The goal was to get these women into work, and it did not matter if it was a low paying dead end job, at least they were working (Mehta, 2009). It seems in the developed nation more attention should be given to pushing for higher education and building of work skills so that these women could be a beneficial part of the growing economy. “U.S. policy evinces skepticism that U.S. women could be affected by the same kinds of oppressive economic and cultural forces that keep women in poverty in the developing world” (Mehta, 2009, p.68). American poor women are denied the potential of becoming strong leaders within their communities, unlike the opportunities for success given to their sisters in developing countries (Mehta, 2009). The negative image of the welfare queen has stunted the U.S. Welfare Policy to create laws that punish poor women. “The United States loses out on the positive effects of women’s empowerment that are already accepted and highlighted by the United States as sound policy abroad” (Mehta, 2009, p.69). The potential that the developing nations have by empowering their women is very beneficial to their economic growth. Women always have been the strongest contributing influence on the family unit. Future development should encourage cooperation between men and women with the ultimate goal to end poverty, reduce population growth, and secure the environment. It seems obvious that not capitalizing on the talent and skills of women to protect men’s privileges is a waste of human resources (Anunobi, 2003). Hillary Rodham Clinton said, “Supporting women is a high-yield investment, resulting in stronger economies, more vibrant civil societies, healthier communities, and greater peace and stability” (USAID, 2009).
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