Constraints to the economic activities of women in rural areas
Despite decades of gender research and public action by civil society, policy makers continue to neglect the rich indigenous knowledge (IK) and the role of women as breadwinners in rural areas. These women have little or no access to economic assets as they are located in poverty-stricken areas lacking in basic infrastructure. They use IK to increase agricultural productivity, preserve and transfer culture and nurture children. The article argues that ignoring the constraints to their economic development increases the poverty of the rural areas. The “means” dimension of reducing poverty is critical to women. They meet their basic needs through a variety of activities and resources such as subsistence production which relies on having access to common property resources and the state’s provision of services. The article argues that rural poverty is created and maintained through the replication of unproductive cultural practices and the implementation of inappropriate policies. Government policies have to recognise women as economic actors and create economy-oriented policies rather than welfare-oriented solutions. IK, agricultural, and non-agricultural activities such as sewing grass mats, producing beadwork and the construction of roads are critical to household livelihoods in rural areas. These activities and methods of production are an important route through which women would be able to escape poverty.
Keywords: Economic activity, household livelihood, economy-oriented policy, poverty, structural constraints.