Women, Girls, and World Poverty: Empowerment, Equality or Essentialism?


Chant, Sylvia. 2016. “Women, Girls, and World Poverty: Empowerment, Equality or Essentialism?” International Development Planning Review 38 (1): 1–24.

Author: Sylvia Chant


This paper asks if mounting reliance on women and girls to solve world poverty is an effective means to achieve greater female empowerment and gender equality, or whether, instead, it threatens to lock-down essentializing stereotypes which are unlikely to dismantle gender disparities within and beyond the home. The notion of a ‘feminization of poverty’ has been widely popularized over the past twenty years, and has had some benefits in respect of drawing attention to gendered disadvantage. However, whether the kinds of policy initiatives which have emerged to address this are good for women and girls is more contentious. The discussion highlights some key problems and paradoxes in three popular interventions nominally oriented to helping women lift themselves and their households out of poverty: conditional cash transfer programs, microfinance schemes, and ‘investing in girls’, as promulgated inter alia by the Nike Foundation’s ‘Girl Effect.’ (Abstract from original)

Topics: Development, Economies, Poverty, International Financial Institutions, Multi-National Corporations

Year: 2016

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