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Food provisioning experiences of ultra poor female heads of household living in Bangladesh


  • McIntyre, Lynn
  • Rondeau, Krista
  • Kirkpatrick, Sharon
  • Hatfield, Jennifer
  • Islam, Khaled Shamsul
  • Huda, Syed Nazmul


Ultra poor women in Bangladesh are especially vulnerable to poverty and food insecurity, and they have generally been excluded from recent improvements in hunger and poverty rates in the country. An examination of the food provisioning narratives of 43 ultra poor female heads of household in Bangladesh was conducted in order to deepen understanding of this obstacle to the country's achievement of the First Millennium Development Goal. All participants were the household's sole income provider, had dependent children, and earned less than $1 USD per day. Women were purposively selected based on occupational group, context, and personal characteristics. Ethnographic interviews were conducted in January and February, 2008. Analysis of women's accounts of their daily food routine revealed chronic and pervasive food insecurity punctuated by acute episodes of absolute food deprivation that resulted from seasonal fluctuations in earnings, rising food prices, illness disrupting work, and healthcare costs. Women's accounts of their daily food provisioning experiences suggested compromises in, and trade-offs between, multiple basic needs as a result of inadequate income. Women were further constrained by social norms and gender roles that influenced their ability to work outside the home. Our method of inquiry led us to construct an organizing framework that extends knowledge of ultra poor women in Bangladesh's complex and multi-sphered experience of poverty and food insecurity. Based on these findings, we propose a strategy called whole person development (WPD), which seeks small adjustments to services, programs, and policies based on leverage points identified through in-depth narratives.

Suggested Citation

  • McIntyre, Lynn & Rondeau, Krista & Kirkpatrick, Sharon & Hatfield, Jennifer & Islam, Khaled Shamsul & Huda, Syed Nazmul, 2011. "Food provisioning experiences of ultra poor female heads of household living in Bangladesh," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(6), pages 969-976, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:72:y:2011:i:6:p:969-976

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Patrick Webb & Jennifer Coates & Robert Houser, 2002. "Does Microcredit Meet the Needs of all Poor Women? Constraints to Participation Among Desitute Women in Bangladesh," Working Papers in Food Policy and Nutrition 03, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.
    2. Sabina Alkire and Maria Emma Santos, "undated". "Acute Multidimensional Poverty: A New Index for Developing Countries," OPHI Working Papers ophiwp038, Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford.
    3. Salma Ahmed & Pushkar Maitra, 2010. "Gender Wage Discrimination in Rural and Urban Labour Markets of Bangladesh," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(1), pages 83-112.
    4. repec:ilo:ilowps:413417 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Shantana R. Halder & Paul Mosley, 2004. "Working with the ultra-poor: learning from BRAC experiences," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(3), pages 387-406.
    6. Ahmed, Syed Masud & Petzold, Max & Kabir, Zarina Nahar & Tomson, Göran, 2006. "Targeted intervention for the ultra poor in rural Bangladesh: Does it make any difference in their health-seeking behaviour?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 63(11), pages 2899-2911, December.
    7. Kapsos, Steven., 2008. "The gender wage gap in Bangladesh," ILO Working Papers 994134173402676, International Labour Organization.
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    1. repec:eee:rensus:v:74:y:2017:i:c:p:1371-1378 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:spr:endesu:v:20:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s10668-016-9888-2 is not listed on IDEAS


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