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Gender, poverty and social justice


  • Chhachhi, A.
  • Truong, T.-D.


Views on poverty are deeply rooted in cultural frameworks about the human condition shaped by histories. In the debate on modernity, perspectives on poverty oscillate between: a) making the poor -- their "morals" and "culture" -- responsible for their own situation and b) positioning the causes in structural shifts in regimes of accumulation and changing forms of governing the population. the hegemonic and binary treatment of the "production" of things and "reproduction" and nurturance of human life as different and separate social spaces, rather than as both fundamentally integral to a human society. By valuing the production of things more than the reproduction of human life, this construct has buffeted both class and masculinised power and operates as a gender-based mechanism of selection and exclusion for voice and participation. This is evident in the discourses on poverty, which surfaced in the context of capitalist industrialisation and political debates on pauperism in the 19th century. Early feminist research followed an empiricist mode in highlighting the invisibility of women and the gaps in poverty data. The findings of these studies gradually helped define the contours of a conceptual critique of the neo-liberal model of accumulation. The feminist conceptual critique of poverty knowledge formed part of a broader challenge to the androcentric and culturally specific assumptions of mainstream knowledge systems. However the contributions of feminist poverty knowledge go beyond some of these new knowledge systems through the articulation of key concepts of gender analysis such as intra-household power relations, care economy, the emphasis on subjectivity, agency and the notion of "trade-offs", all of which offer an epistemological position that provides a lens on poverty that addresses a wider social domain. In the policy field there is limited incorporation of gendered poverty knowledge through 1) selective appropriation; 2) the construction of new myths; and 3) the selective articulation of gendered poverty knowledge that omits major implications for social justice and transformation. This reflects the discursive construction of a new orthodoxy in poverty knowledge systems in line with extant neo-liberal rationality. The present transnational character of poverty and its links with gender poses tremendous challenges to theories of social justice. A gendered analysis of the discourse, politics and policies for reducing poverty forms an important component of a broader social justice framework to address the intersection of emerging forms of exclusion and vulnerability marked by class, caste, ethnicity, race as well as local and transnational processes and dynamics of power.

Suggested Citation

  • Chhachhi, A. & Truong, T.-D., 2009. "Gender, poverty and social justice," ISS Working Papers - General Series 18711, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.
  • Handle: RePEc:ems:euriss:18711

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Anthony B. Atkinson & Eric Marlier & Brian Nolan, 2004. "Indicators and Targets for Social Inclusion in the European Union," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(1), pages 47-75, February.
    2. Sylvia Chant, 2008. "The 'Feminisation of Poverty' and the 'Feminisation' of Anti-Poverty Programmes: Room for Revision?," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(2), pages 165-197.
    3. Penny Vera-Sanso, 2006. "Experiences in Old Age: A South Indian Example of how Functional Age is Socially Structured," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(4), pages 457-472.
    4. Elson, Diane, 1999. "Labor Markets as Gendered Institutions: Equality, Efficiency and Empowerment Issues," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 611-627, March.
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