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:: 17 the future of Developing Countries
How might gender and poverty investigation better inform and influence
17 the future of Developing Countries    8/7/2004 10:25:46 AM


The overall aim of this paper is to outline the major methodological and conceptual challenges to understanding poverty from a gender perspective. The paper is divided into three main sections. Section one provides a synopsis of the ways in which the frontiers of poverty analysis have been pushed forward and progressively ‘engendered’ during three decades of dedicated feminist research and activism in Latin America and other parts of the South. This includes discussion of past deficiencies and cumulative improvements in data on women’s poverty, of the ways in which mounting research on gender has contributed to evolving conceptual approaches to poverty, and of the parameters relevant to analysing gender differences in poverty and their causal mechanisms. While this growing body of theory and research has succeeded in winning recognition of the gendered nature of poverty in mainstream development circles, in some respects this has come at the price of narrowing the optic through which gender is conceptualised, portrayed and addressed. With this in mind, some attention is given in section two to dilemmas and tensions surrounding popular constructions about gender and poverty which have come to dominate enquiry and practice in the early 21 st century. This centres mainly on the concept of the ‘feminisation of poverty’ (which refers, inter alia, to the growing share of poverty borne by women), and its links with increases in female household headship. Discussion in the second section of the paper also considers two further outstanding challenges to understanding poverty from a gender perspective, notably the persistent and/or partial insensitivity to gender within mainstream approaches to poverty analysis, and continued inadequacies in data on gender and poverty.

The third and final section offers thoughts on future directions in research and policy. How might gender and poverty investigation move forward in the 21 st century so as to sharpen our instruments for measurement, and to better inform and influence policy interventions? In turn, to which areas should policy attention be best directed? While Latin America is the main focus of analysis throughout the paper, given the global reach of discourses on gender and poverty, insights are also drawn from academic and policy discussions outside the region.

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