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Women In The Third World Problems And

Women In The Third World: Problems And Prospects Essay, Research Paper

Women in the Third World: Problems and Prospects

One of the major problems women in the Third World face is the low status put on their lives and hence their families, communities and societies are all greatly affected. Another problem women in the Third World face is insufficient participation in growth and development. Women s access to economic resources, income and employment has worsened, their burdens of work have increased, and their health, nutritional, and educational status has declined. Limited success is due to the difficulties of overcoming traditional cultural attitudes and prejudices regarding women s participation in economic and social life. There is an inter-linked crisis of growing impoverishment, food insecurity, environmental degradation, and growing demographic pressure that have worsened their problems (Sen, 1987).

Status of Women

The power of women is limited in the Third World. They are thought of as second class citizens and mostly men inflict this viewpoint on them. In India boys are thought of as an asset to the family. There is a saying that through a son a man conquers the world (Eirlich). In India it is thought of as too expensive to educate girls. Parents must decide whether to educate their girls or give the girls’ dowry to husbands. A woman must marry a man her parents find for her. If these women don t give birth to boys then the in-laws say they are useless. Many women have to look after their children alone. Parents resort to desperate measures to get a son. They don t just rely on spirituality, but use technology like amniocentesis and ultrasound. Many parents when they are told they are having a girl will get an abortion, but they will never request an abortion when they are having a boy (Eirlich).

In India young girls end up working while boys play. When they are hungry, suffering or lonely they should not complain or they will disgrace the family. Girls end up being undernourished. One quarter of them die by the age of fifteen. When children get sick, boys are usually brought in immediately and girls are not brought in till they are very sick. Everyone tells girls that they have second class status as citizens. Without education or job skills they don t have the power to make their own choices. It is a form of modern bondage (Eirlich).

For women systems of male domination deny or limit their access to economic resources and political participation. The specifics of subordination vary considerably across regions, historical time periods and

Classes. Gender-based subordination is deep in the consciousness of men and women alike because it is thought to be a part of the natural biological differences between them. It is reinforced through religious beliefs, cultural practices, and educational systems (Sen, 1987).

Religious Conflict

Religion plays a large part in the subordination of women. Centuries of custom and religion are woven into many people in the world. Religion has the power to control the population. In one religion in Ethiopia it is the will of the god Ala to have as many children as possible and because of this many women there are forced by their husbands to have many children. The children are used to help the family when they are older (Eirlich).

In Nepal, where the Hindu religion is dominant, women do not have access to artificial contraception and the Hindu religion thinks it is a sin to use it. According to the church it is a sin to use artificial contraception. One in five children die by the age of five and husbands want another child right away. Born in an environment of poverty the women are anemic and the children become infected and are of small size (Eirlich).

In Manila 25,000 people survive in garbage. Eighty percent of the Filipinos are Roman Catholic. Less than a decade ago Ferdinande Marcos was in government and supported family planning education and free contraception. The Roman Catholics helped a new government take over. The result was that over a few years women using contraception dropped twenty percent. The Catholic Church and state used its muscle to paralyze a once successful birth control program (Eirlich).

Many women use the rhythm method of birth control because they are a part of a religion that condones artificial contraceptives. Bolivia is the poorest nation in South America with the highest birth rate. The poor in Bolivia are the ones having the most babies. Here government sponsored planning is not a priority. Women, being a part of the Catholic Church, use the rhythm method, which is useless, because their husbands usually come home drunk and women find it hard practicing the rhythm method under these conditions. The women in Bolivia have no choices; they are isolated and have no access to contraceptives (Eirlich).

Problems of Fertility

In the world today 350 children die silently per day. People accept that children die who develop immunizable diseases. With so many deaths women stay pregnant most of their lives to ensure that some of their children live (Eirlich). Literature has held that rural poverty; the economic roles of children concern for old-age security and patterns of property inheritance have led to high fertility rates (Sen 1987). Sterilization scams have been erected in the past where government promised land and loans to people who participated. These scams proved to be disastrous and governments learned their lesson. Social pressure is better than physical coercion. The poorest women in the Third World are having more children and many of these women can not look after all their children. These women end up resorting to desperate measures of infanticide and abortion, some of which are illegal abortions (Eirlich).

Strategies for Successful Development

As resources to strengthen poor women s economic opportunities are shrinking, women have begun to mobilize themselves, both individually and collectively, in creative ways. Equality is impossible within the present economic, political, and cultural processes that reserves resources, power and control for small groups of people (Sen, 1987). Therefore it is necessary to overcome subversive thoughts of men such as those outlined in Paul Eirlichs film Public Bomb. A few of the comments outlined in the film are as follows, from India If she does not understand I will beat her, from Indonesia I tell my children that it is usually the male that is the dominant person in the family, from Zimbabwe Women s function in the house is to look after the man, from the Philippines It should be the man who is the boss because they are the breadwinners, and there is even a quote from a man in the United States I am the boss. Through the process of empowerment women are realizing that they do not have to follow these traditions of subordination to men. The moment you emancipate a woman’s mind she makes decisions on her own behalf and she makes the right decisions (Eirlich).

Paul Eirlich reported one success story where in Jakarta, Indonesia the president honored people for using birth control. Twenty years ago, 60 percent of its population lived in slums and squalor. Families were having more than six children. In the 70 s with the oil embargo came a growing middle class and the population growth slowed down. Muslims became obsessed with birth control and small families became a fashion. Poverty was cut by two thirds and families are now having three children.

In Mexico where men think virility is a sign of their good health, it does not matter if they have too many children and women s view on the issue do not matter. There are plays being performed at Mexican high schools showing the two sides, women versus men to teach the younger generation sexual responsibility. It apparently is easier to change the views of the younger generation than try to change the older generations views (Eirlich).

In the past, people in China practiced the old fashion tradition of having three children, but the government brought in the one child policy in the early 1980 s. In this policy the government will only support families with one child. This policy proved to be a good idea in slowing down the fertility rate.

In a town called Corollas on the southwestern tip of India there has been a dramatic drop in the fertility rate. It is the lowest in the country and women are outnumbering men. This success is due to reading and writing of both sexes. There has been good health care and when fewer children die families are smaller. These educated women are making decisions about their own lives. Free contraception is a good idea, but they only reach a few people (Eirlich).

Women should be educated not just with school subjects, but they should also be taught the principles of family planning and their anatomy. Working and educated women have fewer children. Jobs should be available to women where their pay, even in the informal economy, is equal to that of men. Women should wait longer to get married. When they get married at a young age they are likely to have more children. Religions should not be able to force their beliefs about artificial contraception on people where overpopulation has become an overwhelming problem.


The subordination of women has a long history and is deeply ingrained in economic, political and cultural processes. The cultural subordination of women has reinforced male control of resources and power, and the division of labor that have enshrined male privileges (Sen, 1987;p. 28). A high population of people leads to poverty and the only way to break the cycle is to invest in people s education and health. Improving the status of women by educating the younger generation about harmful subordination of women is but one strategy that could be used in changing old perceptions. The combined effects are reflected in women s health, access to education, ability to control biological reproduction and women s overall autonomy. What women have managed to do are forge grassroots movements and worldwide networks. Solutions developed may lead to policies that are more geared to meeting survival and subsistence needs (Sen, 1987).


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