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Women exiting chronic poverty: empowerment through equitable control of households' natural resources

Working papers

Working papers

This paper examines the relationship between women’s vulnerability to poverty and their management of domestic natural resources. It finds that gendered experiences of poverty often derive from discriminatory social institutions which prohibit women’s control over the financial returns from productive resources; which limit their ownership of natural resources; which prevent them from seeking alternative employment; and which prescribe women the major responsibility for domestic care work. Compounding these gendered social conditions are changing environmental circumstances, such as climate change, resource scarcity and disease, which further perpetuate many women’s vulnerability to poverty. 

Reflecting on this analysis the paper examines current methods and means of strengthening women’s control over resources; through legal and policy change, natural resource management initiatives and community mobilisation. It finds that alongside many examples of good practice are many bad practices and misconceptions about gendered roles with regard to resources, which have often inadvertently further subjugated women. It concludes that five conditions are essential for women’s equitable control of resources and their subsequent empowerment: political and institutional will; improved legal awareness; sustained donor support; opportunities for genuine community participation; and supportive national and local level environments.

Jessica Espey