n Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe - Armoede, gender en handel in Suider-Afrika

Volume 44, Issue 2_3
  • ISSN : 0041-4751


Poverty is endemic in Africa where an estimated half of the population lives on less than one dollar per day. Poverty involves more than meagre material well-being and affects a host of other qualities such as dignity, choice, capability and the right to participate. Poverty manifests itself in the type of deprivation people have to bear. It is the inability to attain a minimal standard of living. The question arises of how poverty specifically affects women, given the fact that the number of female-headed households is rising globally and in particular in Southern Africa, where women head nearly half of the households. This has macroeconomic implications in terms of fiscal demands on governments and socio-economic well-being.
It is estimated that 95 percent of the poor in South Africa are Africans, and 65 percent of all Africans are poor. On an estimated poverty line, about 60 percent of female-headed households are poor in South Africa. Poverty therefore has a woman's face. Women's deprivation is manifold and ranges across the economic, social and political arenas. Women are confronted with a number of inequalities pertaining to income earned, assets owned, education acquired and decisional prerogative. The connectedness of the two concepts of gender and poverty emanates from the prevalence of growth of intense income poverty among women, compared to men. Other authors stress the powerlessness of women to act in society and in their family and also their little access to support mechanisms.
There is a peculiarity in the manner in which women participate in the process of trade, whether local or cross-border. Trade is an important component of the developmental process and is fundamental to household income generation of many households. At a local level, women tend to dominate the informal sector where income is low and erratic and activities tend to be survivalist. Women's involvement in cross-border activities is also unsophisticated, involving the sale of cheap perishable commodities.

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