Wayne Campbell | Towards a modern approach to development
According to the World Bank, in 2011, 17 per cent of the people in the developing world lived at or below US$1.25 a day. This means that 1.4 billion people or 21 per cent of the world's population live in extreme poverty.
Undoubtedly, the fight against poverty and gender inequality requires multiple approaches involving government and non-governmental organisations. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of countries investing heavily in social protection programmes to address the needs of the most susceptible in their societies. As a result of such investments in conditional cash transfers, cash grants from the government to poor households in exchange for sending their children to school and for regular health check-ups, there has been an improvement in the standard of living for many families. In The Philippines, conditional cash transfer has reached 4.4 million families and has made a significant change in the quality of life they now enjoy. In Jamaica, the social safety net programme is administered generally through the Programme for Advancement through Health and Education (PATH) programme. It is estimated that since its inception in 2002, PATH has transformed the lives of more than 400,000 Jamaicans. Additionally, there is the National Health Fund (NHF), which provides assistance to Jamaicans to purchase specific prescription drugs used in the treatment and management of some chronic illnesses. There are five broad categories of beneficiaries for NHF benefits. These are: children from birth to completion of secondary education; the elderly, 60 years and over and not in receipt of a pension; persons with disabilities; pregnant and lactating women; and poor adults 18-59 years. The NHF also administers the Jamaica Drugs for the Elderly Programme, which provides some prescription drugs free of cost to Jamaicans 60 years and over.
According to the 2012 Survey of Living Conditions, published by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, more than 500,000 Jamaicans, or one out of every five, live below the poverty line. The statistics indicate how important such a social safety net programme is for Jamaica in terms of transforming the economic and social well-being of citizens. It can be argued that a country cannot progress without making the requisite investments in human capital. Governments must view social safety net programmes as a tool both for urban and rural development. Historically, development programmes institutionalise male power and privilege; however, we need to interrogate this approach. A recent World Bank report indicates that rising incomes can counter gender inequality. When incomes go up, fertility rates fall, which facilitate more women participating in the workforce.
The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that advancing women's equality could add US$12 trillion to the world's yearly gross domestic product over the next decade. Regrettably, the tendency is for developmental policies to marginalise women's specific conditions and needs by adhering to the belief of women's inferiority. Countless women have suffered globally through the patriarchal structures and policies which have rendered them second-class citizens.
Gender as a social indicator must be seen as a critical pillar of development in which women are more integrated into the process. We need to move away from the top-down, urban-centred approach to development which, unfortunately, many governments still subscribed to. There is an urgent need to incorporate more gender-sensitive policies in the development progress to benefit all our people. Gender analysis is essential, since it is only through an understanding of gender realities that we can properly provide policymakers with the tools necessary to overcome inefficient resource allocation.