Viewpoint: Give Women Credit for Work to Strengthen Families

Monday, March 23, 2015

The adage — “a woman’s work is never done” — exists for a reason. Whether it’s inside or outside the home, women’s labor sustains families. How we assess women’s work has long been a contested issue. In the developing world, it’s especially important.

If we redefine what labor means for women in developing countries, we can be better at reducing gender inequality and fighting poverty.

For example, if you’re a woman living with a family in northwest Bangladesh, there’s a good chance that you know what it feels like not to have enough or the right kind of food when you need it. Experts call this “chronic food insecurity.”

But for Chameli Begum, a forty-something mother living in the village of Katihara in the district of Gaibandha, it meant skipping meals and living in a near perpetual state of being vulnerable. The area her family lives in is prone to floods, which wreak havoc and cause death, disease, injury, economic loss and population displacement.

She also was vulnerable to the social and cultural barriers of unequal gender power relations that give women less say in household decisions and shut them out of disaster response decisions made in the wake of floods.

Heavy monsoonal rains and melting snow caps in the Himalayas, combined with seasonal crop rotations, consistently led to food shortages that Chameli’s husband Soleman could not prevent with his own small business selling palm sugar and fabric. But because of the gender expectations in her family, Chameli felt powerless to address the problem or improve her family’s quality of life.

Source: CNN (link opens in a new window)