The majority of the 1.5 billion people living on a dollar a day or less are women. On average worldwide women earn 50% less then men. In the past decade more women have entered the poverty cycle than men and this has been referred to as ‘the feminization of poverty’. In 1978 Diana Pearce, a researcher for the University of Wisconsin coined the phrase ‘the feminization of poverty’ and now it encompasses all statistics associated with women and poverty. The hardest hit in this cycle of poverty are senior women. These statistics are as relevant to Canada as any country. Canada, in fact, has the fifth largest wage gap between men and women in the world. Only Spain, Portugal, Korea and Japan have larger wage gaps. Women living in poverty are often denied access to credit resources. Health-care and nutritional needs are not a priority. Empowering women is the key to freeing the millions of women who live in poverty. Education and economical opportunities are the answer and since the Beijing Conference in 1995 there has been a recognition by governments that there is a gender dimension to poverty. Numerous countries have implemented initiatives to stop the increase of poor among women and some show success. China claims that poverty has dropped from 65 million to 42 million since 1998 and 60% of those poor were women. Mexico now offers assistance to poor women; as does Zambia, Cameroon, Madagascar and Niger. In developing countries the urgency has been for healthcare, nutrition and education. In more developed countries there has been an emergence of programs that support loans to women in small business. The United States, Canada, Belize, Japan and Viet Nam have placed a focus on women in business. Has this awareness changed the fact that women still comprise the majority of the world’s poor? Obviously not or we would not have statistics such as the following: 1.)56% of lone parent families headed by women live below the poverty line, as compared to 24 % of lone parent families headed by men 2.) 83% of minimum wage earners in Canada are women and children 3.) The more severe a woman’s disability, the lower her income; disabled women under the age of 35 have an average income of $13,000 a year 4.) one in five Canadian women is living in poverty Statistics Canada low-income-cut off (LICO) represents the level at which people spend so great a proportion of their income on basic necessities such as food and rent that they are living under ‘straightened circumstances’. Canadian standards for poverty do not compare with third world standards where populations struggle to survive but no matter where you live, poverty wears a person down. The answer for most women seems to be ‘get a job’ but poverty is a 7-day a week job. When you only get enough money to pay rent, necessity bills and food, there isn’t anything left over for emergencies or some of life’s basics. Poor people can’t buy in bulk to save costs, save for a rainy day or take advantage of sales. What a poor woman does leaves her open to criticism from well-meaning folks who earn a higher income. She is chastised if she spends money on a treat, smokes or has a drink. Poor-bashing is as harmful as any form of racism. Blaming women for their own poverty takes the attention away from the governments who fail to provide for the poor. Women are often judged by the number of children they have and can’t support. Children from low-income homes often don’t have a computer, probably no quiet space to do homework, or often no room of their own. Nearly 30% of poor children have changed schools 3 or 4 times before the age of 12. That is three times more than better-off children. It isn’t necessarily because poor women are transient—often moves are made because of terrible living conditions in some rentable homes. The feminization of poverty impacts women with chronic ill health, susceptibility to infectious disease, increased risk of heart disease, arthritis, stomach ulcers, migraines, clinical depression, stress, breakdown, vulnerability to mental illness and self-destructive coping behaviours. There is also an increased vulnerability to violence and abuse The argument becomes, of course, why are women more subject to violence and abuse because of poverty? The answer is simple; when you are poor you have less choices and poverty often traps women. If you don’t have a credit card or a car, you can’t leave a violent situation as easily. The feminization of poverty is a global crisis. In our own country we should be fighting for more affordable childcare and after school programs, maternity and parental leave for lower income wage earners, tax relief for the poor not just tax breaks for the rich, better health care, mental health care, substance abuse treatment, decent affordable housing, pay equity for women. Get involved with a group that works to make change; volunteer at a church or soup kitchen, look for fair trade clothes and stop supporting products that exploit the work of women and children, support organizations that provide services to women and children—change the way you speak to and about women. Respect, not judge.
Posts Tagged ‘poverty’
Come out and see Jason Beaudoin from Vancouver perform the piece below on Saturday, June 12th at MCA, Abbotsford. Part of the Festival of Artistic and Creative Expression, 9 PM
Breadlines was one of Gwynne Hunt’s first plays . ..people line up at a soup kitchen waiting to get in and eat . . . (1990) it all began with Breadlines.
Chris (from Breadlines)
I’m not like the rest of them. I don’t belong here, man I don’t belong anywhere. I’ve been living on the streets for a year now-sometimes I get lucky and get into a shelter for the night but most nights you find me under the bridge, cranking up. There’s a few of us that hang together but don’t you turn your back. Sometimes I wish I could just go home-my folks got a big fancy house up on the hills. My folks won’t let me come home, not after the last time . . . I needed some coke so after they went to sleep I stole the VCR . . . I mean shit, they’ve got four of the damn things. I blew it man. I’m a smart guy . . . I don’t mean a wise ass, I mean a really smart guy, shit I was on the honour role all through high school-I was valedictorian . . . nobody even knew I was on acid. Lately, I’ve been getting these sores all over my body-I don’t know what they are. I’ve probably got AIDS-I don’t care to find out, might just be scabies too—the foamy I’ve been sleeping on has been around as much as Shiloh, poor kid. She’s going to die out here-I told her that but she gives jack shit about living, just like me. I started out dabbling in coke, acid, angel dust . . . whatever. The booze was pretty bad for a while . . . couple of years where I don’t think I drew sober breath. That’s when my old man kicked me out . . . cut off my college allowance and said hit the road man. I had student loans but shit I couldn’t make it to class . . . I was drunk, or stoned every moment I was awake . . . it wasn’t just me man, my girlfriend blowing it up her nose, my friends, my sister, my cousins, shit-
I’ve never had friends who were sober. The last couple of years I’ve just hit bottom man-I steal whatever I can so I can buy crack, life is shit, I’d end it but my buddy did that . . . walked off the fuckin’ Granville Street Bridge. I don’t want to die that way.
Fuck I must have been in the graduating class of death-1992 . . . I’ve had 10 or 12 friends die since we left highschool man . . . a couple had leukemia, 3 or 4 in car accidents, most to drugs . . . yeah, most to drugs. One of them was even shot and dumped in a shallow grave . . . that always make me laugh, as if a grave could be profound—my girlfriend was shallow. I’ve never had any friends, not real friends, except Jeff and he took a nose-dive off the bridge. Where the hell was I that I couldn’t save him? Stoned. Shit, I’d end it if I thought I was going to a better place. Now this harmonica is my only friend. (holds up harmonica) Man, there are times when I wish I was 3 again and I could just like play with my cars and get hugs from my mom-my mom wouldn’t even spit on me now and I don’t blame her ya’ know-stealing from her and I hit her that once. My old man almost put me in the hospital over that one. When Jeff walked off the bridge I wonder if he felt like he was flying one last time. Man I miss him. I wonder if I walked off the bridge if he would be there to catch me. Man just to feel someone’s arms around me one more time would be worth dying for—that’s the hardest part about this shitty rat hole life I’m living in-no human touch, no hugs from my mom. . . shit, if I thought I was going to a better place I’d end it right now, today. Yeah, just to feel someone’s arms around me one more time would be worth dying for.