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What's mine is yours: household dynamics and women's wages

Posted by Hazel Bedford Friday, March 2, 2012


What’s mine is yours: household dynamics and women’s wages
International Womens Day 2012


“As many as a third of married women in Malawi and a fifth of married women in India are not involved in spending decisions, even about their own income.” [1]

I read that sentence twice to be sure I hadn’t misunderstood it, and then carried on:

“Even in an upper-middle-income country like Turkey, more than a quarter of married women in the lowest income quantile lack control over their earned income.”

©IFAD/Asad Zaidi
Women’s lack of control over the money that they themselves bring home shows the deep-seated nature of gender inequality. If we don’t fight that inequality, then enabling women to increase their incomes may only put more money in the pockets of their husbands. 

Similarly, helping them to increase their productivity may put more food on the market – but it may not change the women farmers’ quality of life.

That’s why IFAD’s work to empower women is so crucial to everything that we do. Without that empowerment, inequality will continue to prevent the benefits of economic growth and social development reaching poor rural women.

That in turn hampers development – leaving deep pockets of deprivation and desperation that are handed on from generation to generation.

Even more shocking and revealing are statistics on what women think about domestic violence:

On average, 29 percent of women in countries with data concurred that wife beating was justified for arguing with the husband, 25 percent for refusing to have sex, and 21 percent for burning food.”[2]

Those are just averages. The country-specific figures are truly shocking – with over 80 per cent of women in one east African nation saying that wife-beating is justified.

Let’s walk the gender talk
There’s a lot of apparent consensus today at the international level that levelling the playing field for women makes economic sense. IFAD President Nwanze is a vocal champion of women’s rights. And Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti went off-script at our recent Governing Council meeting to stress the importance of women’s role and their rights.

Yet empowerment is difficult to do, and it’s difficult to measure. For that reason, one of our commitments to our Members under IFAD9 is to improve the indicators that measure impact on gender equality and women’s empowerment, so that we can better analyse what works and what doesn’t for poor rural women. At the same time, we are committed to promoting expanded economic opportunities for women.

When she visited IFAD last year, UN Women Director Michele Bachelet touched on the importance of gender champions and quotas. International Women’s Day is a good occasion for us to remember her words.

An organization that works to empower poor rural women must have powerful women within it. And it must have powerful men and women who are prepared to stand up and champion women’s rights.

Let’s celebrate International Women’s Day at IFAD with a renewed commitment to fight gender inequality on our doorstep and in the countries where we work.


[1] World Bank: World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development, p. 20.
[2] WDR 2012: p. 83.

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