DESPITE advances in expanding women’s access to formal financial services, women’s empowerment is still elusive as most women, even the working women, do not have decision-making roles when it comes to household expenditures. While women, who are not involved in formal financial services, are customarily deprived of any decision-making role, working women also find it difficult to have control over their own income because of the inherent patriarchal structure in families where financial decisions are largely taken by males. Not having control over their own income wanes women’s progress in society and in family and women on low-paid jobs are more vulnerable to not having control over their own income. A survey on apparel workers with gender dynamics and money decisions in focus, conducted by the South Asian Network on Economic Modelling and the Microfinance Opportunities, shows that only 24 per cent of female apparel workers are in control of their income and spending decisions. The survey interviewed 1,367 workers employed in apparel factories and found that about three-fourths of them either leave or are forced to leave income management, expenditure and savings decisions to the males in the family.
The survey also finds that less than 15 per cent of women take what they need before handing over their income to someone else for household expenses and women workers generally give major portions of their income to families and keep a bare minimum or nothing for themselves. Working women contribute, as some studies say, up to 90 per cent of their income to families. Even when it comes to savings decisions, only 30 per cent of women workers admitted to making such decisions. Women workers’ involvement in decisions on their children’s education is also very low as only 23 per cent admitted to involvement in such decisions. While patriarchal practices and structures that dominate society and families generally deprive women of their control over their own income, experts believe that unawareness of their rights and being involved in precarious jobs have left low-income women out of decision-making roles in their income and spendings. As most women in the apparel sector and other private and informal sectors work for their livelihood without having prospects of any sustainable career, they largely remain dependent on the male members of their families.
Women’s empowerment will not be achieved unless women have control over their income, have sustainable careers and get themselves more involved in decision-making in families. Involving even a larger number of women in precarious jobs would not change their fate and position in society and family. Women’s rights to education and sustainable career need to be ensured first through proper government and non-governmental initiatives for women’s empowerment.
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