The Most Revolutionary Act

Diverse Ramblings of an American Refugee

Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall

Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall
New Plymouth, New Zealand
December 02
Retired psychiatrist, activist and author of 2 young adult novels - Battle for Tomorrow and A Rebel Comes of Age - and a free ebook 21st Century Revolution. My 2010 memoir The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee describes the circumstances that led me to leave the US in 2002. More information about my books (and me) at

MARCH 8, 2012 9:41PM

The Female Face of Poverty

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Happy International Women's Day

Happy International Women's Day

Today (March 8th) is International Women’s Day. This year the UN has declared the theme “Empower Rural Women: End Hunger and Poverty.”

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women comprise 43 percent of agricultural workers worldwide and 70 percent in third world countries. More than 60 percent of chronically hungry people are women and girls. According to the FAO, gender inequality is a major cause of both poverty and hunger. Their studies suggest that if women were allowed the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20–30 percent, lifting 100-150 million out of hunger.

Gender inequality and inadequate access to education, health care and credit pose massive challenges for rural women in the developing world. The global food and economic crisis and extreme weather events related to climate change have greatly aggravated their plight.

According to UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), women and girls face still face extremely high rates of educational poverty. They find that approximately 80 percent of the 67 million children not attending school live in rural areas and that the majority are girls.

The FAO cites the West African nation of Burkina Faso as a prime example of rural education and gender gap challenges. According to UNESCO data released today, only about 22 percent of the country’s rural girls attend primary school, compared to 72 percent of urban girls or 82 percent of urban boys.

In Morocco in North Africa, 55% of rural males and 37% of rural women receive at least five years of education.

Addressing Poverty and Hunger by Empowering Women

According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) , there has been a surge of interest in recent years in rural women and the role they play in agriculture. This has been prompted by the renewed focus on agriculture – sparked by two food crises; droughts linked to climate change, forcing men to seek alternative livelihoods away from home; HIV/AIDS, which has virtually decimated the agriculture work force in southern Africa; and the growing body of research into nutrition and food quality.

A new report IFPRI entitled Engendering Agricultural Research, Development and Extension, which will be presented at the Global Conference on Women in Agriculture in India March 13-15, calls for a more “gender equitable” agriculture. Specifically it argues that the development of homestead gardens should get the same attention from policymakers as male-dominated aspects such as cash-crops. It also calls for an expanded concept of the food sector – to include staple crops, but also fish, livestock, gardens, the nutritional value of food and the use of water. It also advocates for government policies providing microcredit, as well as opportunities for land and livestock ownership, to women farmers. Finally it calls for more investment in women female agricultural scientists and greater attention to food processing, to better preserve the nutrient content of food, as well as ensuring food safety.

Female Poverty in the US

Sadly the feminization of poverty is, by no means, limited to the third world. According to the 2010 census, American women are the hardest hit by the global economic crisis in every category. The poverty rate among US women rose to 14.5% last year, up from 13.9% in 2009 and the highest in 17 years. More than 17 million American women lived in poverty last year, compared to 12.6 million American men. Single mothers are the hardest hit. Forty percent of women who head families currently live in poverty.

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Clicking on the title of this post to get here I knew I am in for a depressing treat. And again, I learned much and I am a better man because of it. Thank you, Dr., and Happy International Women's Day. R
You're not really expecting a global greed economy to do anything about this, are you?

I don't at all expect the number of women who live in poverty to decrease but I sure do expect the number of men who do so to increase!

By golly, we're going to get gender equality in poverty rates yet!

Thanks for this post, Dr S. I have a dream for women to be empowered through agriculture . Women are very good at it and have some spectacular potential . Urban gardening is one of my favorite programs.
OMG thanks for the eye opener here. Thank god for international womens day!

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" chronically hungry people " now there's an obscenity.
Linda Seccaspina just posted along the same lines. Maybe that foul and obnoxious creature Russ Limbaugh does serve some use.

You mention Africa in your statistics but misogyny there is only due to the “civilizing” effects of the West and the East. The Dahomey of west Africa in what is now the Republic of Benin were once the principle power in West Africa. They were a matriarchy. In fact their woman warriors were legendary.Indeed even in Afro-American culture today it is the woman who rules the family. The Iroquois and Algonquin's of the new world were also matriarchies. There is the story of the Greek amazons and later accounts of fierce woman tribes in the amazon. Burial mounds have been found all around the Asian steps enshrining woman warriors. It is only in European and Asian culture where the woman is considered a sub creature.

Marija Gimbutas's “theory's” have been repeatedly attacked by the plodding morons who have insidiously seized the dialogue of the origins of civilization in academic circles but they are yet to lay a glove on her. According to her, ancient agricultural cultures were based on a mother Goddess and were over run by ruthless nomadic patriarchal raiders whose origins can be traced somewhere around the Black and Caspian sea. These nomadic raiders, who are the source of todays constant warfare, are called the Kurgans due to their practice of constructing burial mounds for their dead. At the time of the formulation of her theory's Ryan and Pitman's discovery of the Great Flood of the Black Sea in 5600 BC was yet to be made. This flood confirms everything Marija Gimbutas said.

Interestingly enough with the dawning of the age of Chivalry this cultural blight began to recede. Indeed the British empire was a matriarchy during its hey day and their warriors marched into battle singing God save the Queen. As I told Linda you lady's can thank the woman's suffrage movement for rekindling the dark ages in the relation of the sexes. I wish you all could see the insidious nature of the hand that rocks this cradle as clearly as I do.
Skypixieo, all women are asking for is equal rights. According to the research, female poverty is caused by blatant discrimination. The research suggests if governments started subsidizing women's garden plots - instead of cash crops - it would immediately lift 100-150 million people out of hunger.

Jack your post is really erudite and fascinating, as usual. According to Marilyn Waring in "If Women Counted," the women do all the work cultivating vegetables and collecting firewood, but in many African countries, the title to the property is still in the husband's name - which means he keeps control of any cash that's generated.

I'm aware that most "primitive" societies were matriarchal, tending to become patriarchal with civilization. Egypt, though, was an exception. A scroll has been found in one of the tombs listing more than 60 remedies for menstrual cramps (according to Egyptologists, this was a testament to women's high status).

In Europe women were allowed to engage in a wide variety of trades until the 15th century, when the guilds made them men-only professions. The only exception was spinning. This is how unmarried women (those who didn't engage in prostitution) came to be known as spinsters.
I thought it particularly relevant to add this bit of information: is " a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world."

This week, in recognition of International Woman’s Day, they are allowing you to get a sponsored trial membership for free. Just cursor over the photos on the home page (for specific loans) or browse all of them. will take you to specific information on how they are improving women's lives. Rated 4 Stars by Charity Navigator.
Thanks for this, Samasiam. Kiva is quite popular among Living Economies members here in New Zealand.