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Monday, May 28, 2007

Poverty Has a Women Face

Gender-based power relation means that women experience poverty differently and more forcefully than men do and women are more vulnerable to chronic poverty because of gender inequality in the distribution of income, access to productive inputs, such as credit, command over property or control over earned income, as well as gender biased in labor markets. (Nilufer Cagatay, Trade, Gender and Poverty, London: UNDP, 2001)

The statement above showed that in poverty, women are more forcefully exposed to it rather than men because of patriarchal culture. This is engendered by some unequal chances women get in social life, such as:
1. Human Development Report stated that in 2000 Indonesian women’s literacy reached 82%, and this number constituted 89% of Indonesian men’s literacy.

2. In the last decade, the participation of women to study in elementary school is only 49% compared to men, 46% in the level of junior high school, 41% in the level of senior high school, and only 33% in the level of higher education, such as in college.

3. Marriage Law in Indonesia that stated that women are only homemakers and not breadwinners resulted in the lower income women get than men because they are considered only as “side” worker, and oftentimes they don’t get as many allowances as men get.

(The above data were taken from Jurnal Perempuan number 42 “Mengurai Kemiskinan, Dimana Perempuan?” published in July 2005)

The three inequal chances between men and women I mentioned above are inter-related very closely. In this era, literacy is very important to get a better job that also means to get a higher income. When women’s literacy is lower than men’s, the conclusion is that women are exposed to a higher possibility to be poorer. It is supported by conventional opinion that men will be the breadwinner later so that parents give bigger chances to their sons to pursue higher education rather than their daughters. This of course mostly happens among poor families that have to decide who must go to school and who must stay at home due to the minimum income they get. Oftentimes their decision is only based on the stereotype that men will be the breadwinner and women will be the homemaker, and not based on who has a higher intelligence or better talent.

Around three years ago when my (ex) workplace applied a new policy that the company no longer paid the income tax for the employees, we found out the unequal amount of tax between men and women. Male employees’ income tax was always lower than female ones. Female employees’ income that generally is lower than male employees’ must be reduced more. The reason was because the tax regulation stated no matter a female employee is single or married (and has some children), she will always be considered single because referring to the Marriage Law, women’s role in a marriage is as homemaker, and not as breadwinner. This regulation is still applied although female employees also have role as the solely breadwinner, either due to divorce, the husband has died, or the husband was laid off from his job, or as a single parent (read  the children were born out of wedlock).

Therefore no wonder if Human Development Report stated that POVERTY HAS A WOMEN FACE (UNDP, 1995).

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