Monday, March 15, 2010

Where's the Crisis? Ask the Young Women

There's been a lot of talk of the financial crisis. Recently, there has been talk of it lessening - even being over. For those looking at international development, East Asia and other countries have been held up better than anyone - including them - predicted. Despite comforting noises from the financial services, development organisations of all stripes are warning the global public that poor and vulnerable people the world over have just begun to feel the effects of the financial crisis. And around the world, it is the women who are feeling it most.

Why the women? Because women - especially poor women - are more likely to take care of things when things fall apart. Social networks, especially the family, takes up the challenges of supporting one another. Older women play a significant role in keeping the women together. They care for the elderly and the children. They are more likely to a be in the informal sector, which has been strongly effected by the crisis. Many already work several 'jobs', and when you are poor and working in the informal sector and work dries up, where are you going to go? Many must turn to prostitution to feed their families. As for the 'young' part - at least in many countries, especially in south east asia, young people have been hit harder than older people.

Oxfam recently asked women what they wanted. They wanted school children to have free books, low interest loans for poor people, social security for children which would reduce medical bills, and, when factories got shut down, workers would get some compensation so they were not suddenly left with nothing. These all come under the loose but vital category of social protection.

The age has come for social protection in all countries. But despite the evidence for this, it is questionable if the political will is there.

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