Gender and poverty : an analysis of gender-poverty linkages in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.
In the South African context, the Eastern Cape Province constitutes one of the most depressed and poorest regions with widespread poverty. It is characterised by a comparatively large rural population reflecting a skewed female/male ratio in favour of females due to large-scale outmigration of adult males seeking work in urban areas both within and outside the province, widespread unemployment, and lack of access to social infrastructure and services in many areas. The region thus provides an ideal setting for investigating gender and poverty linkages. Drawing on the literature, the study addresses the conceptual definitions and notions of poverty and explores issues on gender inequality and its effect on poverty. Paramount in explaining gender inequality are the gendered social relations between males and females brought about as a result of unequal access to economic and social resources and gendered division of labour in the household, extending to other institution sites, an skewed in favour of males. From the literature then, men and women were likely to experience poverty differently. Using official survey data on the Eastern Cape for 1997 and 2002, the study selected and analysed indicators that correlate with poverty, based on gender. The analysis came out with strong linkages between gender and poverty. It is established from the findings that the living conditions and life circumstances of women were more associated with the characteristics of poverty than that of men, leading to the conclusion that poverty remains gendered, and men and women experience poverty differently, with women more likely to be adversely affected than men. The investigation has also established that the rural population is more likely than the urban population to be at risk to the experience of poverty in the Eastern Cape, and that the African population group was the most affected group. In concluding, the study advocated the adoption of gender positive alleviation policy strategies that aim at improving women's access to economic and social resources. This, it is hoped, will have the effect of enhancing their capabilities and capacities. Secondly, it called for the adoption of sustainable livelihood programs, especially in rural areas where the majority of the vulnerable women reside and eke their livelihoods. It also acknowledged, in its concluding remarks, the limitations of household data in studies on gender disparities and advocated for the need to generate disaggregated intra-household data, the analysis of which may provide a more meaningful insight into gender-poverty linkages.