Gender, Rights And Poverty Issues:Lessons For The Sector
In its 1997 White Paper1, DFID establishes that poverty alleviation is central to its development strategy. The notions of gender and human rights figure strongly as part of this strategy. Gender equality is seen as key to poverty alleviation, as are mechanisms to ensure that basic human rights are met. These principles are also re-iterated by other international organisations in key policy documents such as the OECD s Shaping the 21st Century 2. The international interest in gender, poverty and rights reflects a number of related but not necessarily always compatible concerns. Because women often suffer most from poverty and a lack of ability to exercise their rights, it seems to make sense to consider these three issues together. But this may over-simplify a complex reality. To avoid a formulaic approach to rights, poverty and gender relations, a careful consideration of these complexities is needed. For example, a rights-based approach to development is predicated on the concept that there are a number of irreducible human rights, but sometimes we find these rights competing3. Emphasis on women s human rights may be at odds with culturally determined rules of behaviour. The alleviation of women s poverty might be at the cost of other members of the household. These tensions exist because, although related and mutually reinforcing, the social processes behind gender inequality, poverty, and the denial of rights, are different. This is an important guiding principal for this paper. In what follows, while highlighting some of the complexities, this paper aims to identify the questions that need to be asked in order to understand the relationship between gender, poverty and rights.
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