Report Fails to Measure Effects of Poverty on Peruvian Women

Karim Velasco

A new report assessing poverty reduction in Peru analyzes socioeconomic status through many lenses -- except gender.

It’s been almost fourteen
years since the Cairo Conference on Population
and Development
, thirteen
years since the Beijing World Conference on
and eight since the
United Nations adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and still women can so easily, yet so inexplicably, be ignored by government discourse in some Latin
American countries, including here in Peru.

Three weeks ago the Peruvian
National Statistics Institute (INEI) released its 2007 Technical
Report on Poverty
in Peru. 
The report — which applied the same methodology and procedures used
to measure poverty in 2006 — was received with optimism and great satisfaction
by government officials and the media since it stated that the poverty
rate decreased 5.2% in 2007 (39.3%)
compared to the 44.5% rate in 2006
.  In the same way extreme
poverty decreased from 16.1% in 2006 to 13.7% in 2007
.  This
means that for the first time in more than 20 years the poverty rate
was below 40%.   

However, despite the
good news, there is not even a single reference in any
of the report’s 31 pages about women and their poverty status; neither
the charts nor tables include data related to women. Are women more
or less poor? Is their poverty status similar to men’s? Have they
also reached the best scenario in twenty years? This is not possible
to know from the report. On the other hand, the report does give detailed
information about poverty incidence rates in urban areas (25.7%) and
rural areas of the country (64.6%), where people are four times poorer
than the poor people in urban areas. Sixty-three percent of people whose mother tongue
is an indigenous language are poor, whereas only 32.6% of the people
whose mother tongue is Spanish are poor.  The report also identifies
the profiles of the poor: households consisting of five or more family
members, with a young head of household, with only primary education or
no education at all, working on agriculture, fishing or mining. After
examining all these criteria, it is difficult to understand how the
report can omit every reference to women, who comprise half of the
Peruvian population

This is even more shocking
when taking into consideration that for this year’s report, various
international institutions that work on gender issues themselves, such
as the Inter-American Development
and the World Bank, provided technical assistance to the INEI. It
seems contradictory that apparently none of these institutions demanded
that the report included a gender perspective.  

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The Advisory Committee set up to review the methodology applied by
the INEI and formulate relevant recommendations issued a statement listing
its main findings, which were principally related to minor changes in
the sample, the accuracy of the methodology used and the importance
of INEI’s transparency policy. Again there was no mention regarding
the lack of gender related or sex disaggregated data needed for a comprehensive
estimation of poverty.  

The relation between
women and poverty has been extensively researched. According to UNIFEM "poverty traps women in multiple layers of
discrimination and hinders their ability to claim their rights (…)
Not only do women bear a disproportionate burden of the world’s poverty,
but in some cases, globalization has widened the gap, with women losing
more than their share of jobs, benefits and labour rights. (…) economic
policies and institutions still mostly fail to take gender disparities
into account."  Arriagada believes that the gender analysis "highlights
the heterogeneous character of poverty, and therefore, helps to understand
it better and to adjust policies to eradicate it." 

Fortunately, despite
the INEI report’s deficiency, there are several institutions and NGOs
that have been working on gender and poverty issues in the country,
monitoring the fulfillment of the MDGs. UNIFEM, for instance, has been
funding projects regarding gender participatory budgets and assisting the Round Tables for the Fight
against Poverty in outlining gender sensitive budgets. Likewise, UNDP
provides technical assistance to design poverty reduction policies and
to promote the role of women in development. 

The INEI’s report is
supposed to reflect if poverty reduction strategies are working and
help to outline and implement new policies to eradicate poverty. 
The question is then how can poverty reduction policies be properly
reviewed from a report where half of the population is not being considered? 
It is time to realize that no real changes will be achieved unless gender
analysis is seriously taken into account. 

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