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Stabroek News

The 'feminisation' of poverty
published: Sunday | April 22, 2007

Women police, who graduated from the Police Academy last June, are among the lucky ones, as government data indicate that the rate of unemployment among women is twice that for men. - File

Dr. Glenda Simms, senior adviser to the prime minister on gender and development, has cited what she termed as the "feminisation of poverty" in Jamaica as the dominant contributor to high levels of unemployment, teenage pregnancy and migration among the nation's women.

Speaking at last Thursday's media launch of the 2007 edition of Carimac Times at the Undercroft at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus, Dr. Simms said that the patriarchal model of the Jamaican society continues to sideline women, with debilitating effects on the nation.

"It is clear to me that we live in a society that has, from its earliest beginnings, adopted rigidly a patriarchal model that ensures that women as a group remain poorer than men," she said. "Here in Jamaica, this concept of the feminisation of poverty is realised in the high levels of female-headed households - 47.2 per cent - and the research shows that these households are poorer than those headed by men."

She said a review of the distribution of poverty in Jamaica's unemployment rates between 1980 and 2005 revealed that the rate of female unemployment remains at more than two times the rate of men.

Dr. Simms said this meant that when governments plan job creation initiatives, whether in traditional endeavours or in the building of highways, hotels or mining infrastructure, women should be trained to access the new jobs.

Simms noted too that the high levels of poverty also create an avenue for exploitation of the nation's women and girls, which often results in prostitution, teenage pregnancies and broken families.

"A large majority of women and girls in all corners of the world are held against their wishes, forced or tricked into prostitution, other forms of sexual exploitation and dehumanising circumstances be-cause of poverty, the lack of skills and basic education," said Dr. Simms.

"In Jamaica, the feminisation of poverty is also characterised by high levels of teenage pregnancies. We now have the children having children without the financial, psychological and social support to ensure that these young mothers and their children are able to break the cycle of poverty."

She continued that it is often in light of this reality that the nation's women seek to migrate to northern climes in a bid to escape the pangs of poverty.

Carimac Times isan annual magazine produced by final-year print journalism scholars at the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication, UWI. This year's edition of the magazine was published under the theme, 'Women and Poverty'.

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