Women and the Poverty Syndrome

Single women with children are the most vulnerable to economic constraints. In addition to facing the same obstacles as other women, they lack the second income necessary in these economic times.

Women with children are sometimes forced to take part-time jobs with little or no benefits that rarely pay a living wage. Higher wage, full-time jobs can make demands on a single mother’s time that she cannot meet. Moreover, finding safe and affordable child care is a persistent and widespread problem. Studies have shown that close to half of all single mothers have incomes below the poverty level and many are dependent on public assistance. Two-thirds of all poor adults are women. One out of every four children lives in a poor family. Given this information, one can conclude that poverty is clearly a woman’s issue. 

 Poor women with children on public assistance are obligated to work in a world that offers them few opportunities. The number of “working poor” is at its highest in decades. Entry-level jobs that pay a living wage are scarce and parental leave laws offer weak protection to working mothers.

 Many reasons account for the poor state of many women. They include women with children who may become poor through divorce, failure of the father to pay child support, loss of employment, or pregnancy and lack of education to enhance good n promising future careers among others. Stakeholders have the duty to step in and regulate the situation, and this can help many poor women from destitution.  

Six Strategies That Work

Here  are six strategies which if implemented can achieve long-term success in moving low income families out of poverty. The six strategies are:

  1. Adopting a Self-Sufficiency Standard to measure what is needed to eliminate poverty for families and to assess the success of programs designed to move welfare recipients into the workforce;
  2. Targeting high-wage employment sectors for use in developing and designing education, employment, and training opportunities and for the provision of career counseling;
  3. Integrating literacy and basic skills into occupational skills and family support programs to improve the efficiency and success of adult education investments;
  4. Improving the access of low income women to nontraditional training and employment;
  5. Training and support for micro enterprise development;
  6. Supporting the use of individual development accounts, facilitating the development of assets by low income families.

Unless we invest in the ability of low income people, especially women, to acquire skills and increase productivity, build businesses and jobs, and establish stable homes and communities, the likelihood is that needs will continue to grow while the resources to meet them, both public and private, will diminish.


By Rosaline Obah