The deep-rooted poverty in our social constructs hits the rural women and women-headed families the hardest. Lack of employment opportunities and pay disparity becomes a hindrance for them to achieve financial stability and a healthy life, and this leads to a situation where they have a very little say in the decision-making.
According to National Family Health Survey-3 (2005-06), in rural sector only 26% of decisions are taken by married women regarding obtaining healthcare for themselves. The survey suggests that almost 36% of women in India are undernourished with a Body Mass Index (BMI) less than 18.5, indicating a high prevalence of nutritional deficiency. More than half of women (55 per cent) of women in India are anaemic. The prevalence of anaemia in children age-6-59 months increases steadily with the mother’s level of anaemic.
But what most tend to forget is that poverty mostly affects women in the rural villages where the burden to take care of all the needs of her household falls on her. Women and their children, specially a girl child, are often the ones who suffer due to the trickling effects of poverty.
Studies and reports by the government have found that a mother’s education and household wealth affects the health of her children. With only 64 per cent females literates, the main reason of women never attending schools are ‘expensive cost of education’, ‘not interested in studies’, education is not considered necessary’, and ‘required for household work’ – the Census 2011 has found out.
Lesser participation in decision making affects a woman growth at all levels. In rural sector, the workforce participation rate for females at the national level stands at 30 per cent as compared to men at 53 per cent.
The gender disparity is most visible among female-headed households, notably lone mothers and single pensioners. A large number of women in India are engaged in agricultural labour.
At a time when income stability is on the minds of the women workforce, most women complain of unequal wages and unfavourable treatment. Lack of medical and financial attention leaves them with no choice but to succumb to the wage disparity pressure.