‘Agency, Well-being and Discrimination: Reflections on the Gender Dimensions of Poverty’, IDS Bulletin, Vol. 27 (1)

Despite their apparent gender-neutrality, most discussions of poverty have been premised on the concept of a male actor and of male-centred notions of well-being and agency. The assumption underpinning income/consumption and well-being measures is that shortfalls in income/consumption translate into shortfalls in choice, and are manifested in shortfalls in well-being. However, gender introduces disjunctures into this process, with the result that these measures inadequately capture women’s experience of poverty. The basic conundrum that plagues attempts to conceptualize the gender dimensions of poverty stems from the operation of the forces that create scarcity, on the one hand, and discrimination, on the other. The form in which women’s poverty manifests itself depends on the cultural context far more than it does for men, suggesting that it cannot be understood through the same conceptual lens.

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