Poor women leading

Oxfam focuses on poor women because they account for the second largest number of poor  people, next to children. Yet, at the same time, poor women are an economic force and are active actors whose hidden powers could be unlocked to change unfavourable conditions for them. 

Oxfam focuses on poor women because they account for the second largest number of the poor population, next to children.

Oxfam focuses on poor women because they account for the second largest number of the poor population, next to children.

Women’s experience of poverty and ill-being can be different to that of men.  Rural women experience ‘time poverty’ – they work 4 to 5 hours longer than men.  They also fear domestic violence.  Both are particularly acute aspects of their ill-being. Gender makes women vulnerable to certain events that can spell poverty, which do not apply to men such as death of a spouse or marital breakdown. 

Gender intersects with economic deprivation to produce more intensified forms of poverty for some women than some men, e.g., being more vulnerable to prostitution and trafficking.  Gender makes income poverty harder to escape since women face gender bias when they engage in markets, there are considerable barriers to their entry in wage work, and they have relatively poor access to resources such as land and credit — only one-fourth of land distributed because of agrarian reform bear women’s name and of the total available agricultural credit, less than one percent have been accessed by women. 

Oxfam aims to put women's rights at the heart of what we are doing through strategies that would increase and improve the leadership exercised by poor women.

Oxfam aims to put women's rights at the heart of what we are doing through strategies that would increase and improve the leadership exercised by poor women.

We aim to put women’s rights at the heart of what we are doing through strategies that would increase and improve the leadership exercised by poor women.  One such strategy is Poor Women’s Economic Leadership or PWEL.  PWEL aims to build women’s negotiating power in two dynamically interacting spheres of their lives — within their own households and then in markets which they engage to sell their produce and/or services.  When women are able to do this, it would translate to having their own incomes, building their assets (e.g., land, savings, etc) and improved status in the household and in their communities. 

Why PWEL? Women play a major and increasing role in agriculture. They often work longer hours compared to men as they juggle household and agricultural activities. Agricultural development initiatives, including Oxfam’s, are grappling with two major challenges: how to make it fair to both women and men and how to make business viable. Many rural development programmes have prioritized the viability of business plans.  Too often this results in rural women’s projects that maintain women producers in the traditional, low value, risky or low returns activities.  Women tend to trade a narrower range of products compared to men.  These usually consist of staple food such as vegetables or root crops, cooked food, which can be carried out at home and products are perishable. Women’s products or goods are seen as ‘inferior’, and we usually consider their work as ‘sideline’ – to augment the men’s income. Women are also concentrated in larger numbers in small scale processing (e.g., tocino-making, dried fish) and retailing (e.g., sari-sari store).  Men trade in a wider range of goods including major cash crops and they dominate also in wholesaling activities where there is more money. 

In the Philippines, Oxfam is focusing on two of the poorest regions – CARAGA and Central Mindanao.  Oxfam is working with several partners and stakeholders in various value chains. One is on Malunggay (scientific name: Moringa Oleifera) as a source of biofuel and pharmaceutical products.  There is a huge potential for women to earn when they produce moringa and are able to secure good deals with buyers.  Another possible “winner” product that women can engage in is rubber.  Did you know that women are also rubber farmers and engage in the rubber trade?  However, they do not receive enough technical support to make their rubber farms more productive and their access to credit and land is not secure. 

Oxfam aims to build the capacity of poor women in Mindanao to develop enterprises that will be a good and secure source of income.

Oxfam aims to build the capacity of poor women in Mindanao to develop enterprises that will be a good and secure source of income.

Oxfam is now working with a number of agencies, private sector entities, local government units, cooperatives, people’s organizations and civil society groups or NGOs, in Mindanao to support more viable agriculture-based enterprises or businesses for poor women and men.  

We aim to build the capacity of poor women in Mindanao to develop enterprises or businesses that will be a good and secure source of incomes. 

We aim to develop the capacity of poor women to work with other actors that can help them achieve the full enjoyment of their rights.

We aim to increase the capacity of poor women to connect with and influence big businesses and governments and support their advocacy by campaigning for policies and budgets that favour poor women’s enterprises. 

We aim to generate resources through campaigning to mitigate climate change’s effects on the environment upon which poor women’s livelihoods depend; to develop the capacity of poor women to adapt their enterprises to resource shifts brought about by climate change

What is interesting also is that this programme links to the global learning on women’s economic leadership in Oxfam’s Agriculture Scale Up Initiative and in the Enterprise Development Programme, which are being implemented in at least 10 countries.  This includes Tanzania, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Mali, Honduras, Sierra Leone, India, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Zambia, and Colombia.  The country teams identified will address the challenges of integrating PWEL in market-based programming to build more sustainable rural women’s livelihoods.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lorelei Panacawan  |  October 23, 2009 at 6:36 am

    Im very glad about PWEL, may i know if zamboanga sibugay is included in your priority areas? The province is a major producer of rubber and like you said, there are women here who earn as rubber tappers. Others earn thru rubber nurseries. women’s groups here are interested to know if they can apply for livelihood programs focusing on rubber, crab processing, calamansi processing, and agar-agar.

    Reply
    • 2. oxfamphilippines  |  October 28, 2009 at 6:23 am

      Hi! An Oxfam partner based in Zamboanga Sibugay, Kasanyangan Rural Development Foundation, Inc., is involved in PWEL. But it’s project in Butuan, also in rubber, is what Oxfam is supporting. Cheers!

      Reply
  • 3. Jing Pura  |  November 17, 2009 at 2:28 am

    hi lorelei, this is jing pura of Oxfam. Zamboanga Sibugay is not a priority area at the moment. the priority areas are CARAGA and Central Mindanao. thanks a lot for sharing what you know re women in Zamboanga Sibugay! it would be good to link up through information sharing. will give more update on what’s happening in CARAGA and Central Mindanao soon!

    Reply

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