For Better or Worse: Tackling women's and men's poverty in regeneration

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Throughout their lifetimes, women all over the world are at much greater risk of being trapped in poverty than men. And even in the UK, women are suffering from this injustice. Women also have less power to change this situation. The needs and roles of women and men are different and this must be recognised and understood by society in order for poverty and inequality to be overcome.On 24 May 2007, Oxfam brought together its partners from the community, voluntary and statutory sectors, with speakers and panellists from key decision-making bodies in Scotland and the UK. The conference explored how taking account of gender can improve regeneration programmes, and make a difference to the lives of people who are living in poverty.
  Conference Report 24 MAY2007,GLASGOW FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE? TACKLING WOMEN’S AND MEN’S POVERTY IN REGENERATION  WHY ARE WOMEN PAYING AHEAVIER PRICE FOR POVERTY? Throughout their lifetimes,women all over theworld are at much greater risk ofbeingtrapped in poverty than men.And even in theUK,women are suffering from this injustice.Women also have less power to change this situation.The needs and roles ofwomen and men aredifferent – and this must be recognised andunderstood by society in order for poverty and inequality to be overcome.On 24 May 2007,Oxfam brought together itspartners from the community,voluntary andstatutory sectors,with speakers and panellistsfrom key decision-making bodies in Scotlandand the UK.The conference explored how taking accountofgender can improve regenerationprogrammes,and make a difference to thelives ofpeople who are living in poverty. “We can’t stop until we’ve brought thisinjustice to an end”  Conference participant  Any family that doesn’t fit into this‘breadwinner-plus-homemaker’model – because oflow-status work,unemployment,sickness,or separation – is at a huge disadvantage.As arefamilies where both partners need to work.For working women,thecompromise is often even greater;they have a higher burden ofunpaidcare,and their jobs have toaccommodate this.It’s especially difficult – ifnot impossible – to work 40 hours per week,as well as having to look after children.Often,families will hire others – such ascleaners or carers – to help them.Yet,in many cases,these jobs areregarded as low-status and,accordingly,are low-paid.Or,whenother family members are asked to helpout,they may receive no pay at all. “Do we want male workers to be‘visitors to their children’?”  “Awareness ofgender is not evident incurrent regeneration policy,”  shecontinued. “Women are more likely tolose out.For example,when returning towork after maternity leave,they canoften see their pay and progressionrates drop within six months ifthey return to their previous job,and immediately ifthey return to a new job.”  Baroness Prosser advocated thatopportunities for women to earn ahigher wage are critical iffamilies are toescape from poverty.Regeneration,anti-poverty and child poverty strategiesmust recognise this – and include plansto increase opportunities for qualitypart-time and flexible work that payswell,and provides stability,progressionand fair benefits.Another guest speaker,author and journalist Beatrix Campbell,stated “women will not get equality until they are better-off”  .The government has torecognise that the issue is about moneyas well – it’s economic as well as social.We often blame women for “makingpoor choices”– for instance,bybecoming carers and mothers,BeatrixCampbell continued.By blaming womenfor making such choices,society isfailing to acknowledge the historicaldiscrimination that has led to the lack of choice that women still have today.Thisculture ofblame extends to young mentoo,who are often demonised bypoliticians and society for adopting an‘aggressive’form ofmasculinity.Drawing on her experience ofworkingwith men in prisons,she stated that inreality young men have little choice andfew positive role models who can offer an alternative.Recognition ofhow gender interlinkswith other areas ofequality,such asrace,disability and age,is also vital.For instance,reports show that black andAsian women experience morediscrimination in the workplace thanwhite women,and disabled women donot experience the built environment inthe same way as disabled men. “Poverty and gender inequality go hand in hand…”  … declared Baroness Margaret Prosser,Vice Chair ofthe Commission for Equalitiesand Human Rights (CEHR),and Chair ofthe Women and Work Commission. Beatrix Campbell posed a serious challenge to the way that we organise workpatterns.She asserted that current laws around working time are based on a “male breadwinner working long hours,missing out on time with children and family,with an unpaid female slave at home”.    P   h  o   t  o  :   K  a  r  e  n   R  o   b   i  n  s  o  n   /   O  x   f  a  m  “Gender stereotyping affects thelife chances ofyoung people”  This perception is threatening youngwomen’s job prospects – and severelylimiting their potential levels ofpay.Theycan’t look forward to a brighter future if this beliefis perpetuated by a systemthat only offers them such jobs.The fight against gender inequality and stereotyping needs to start in theclassroom.Young people need to beshown that they can pursue the careers that are right for them,regardless oftheir gender.For this to happen,we need to keepchallenging the stereotyped attitudes of teachers,careers staff,employers,andpolitical leaders – as well as youngpeople themselves. “Lassies like weans and doing stuff about babies… manufacturing is aboy’s thing.”  Simon Cameron,What’s With Work Programme Coordinator,South Lanarkshire Council Jean Smith lives with her partner andtwo children in Larkhall,South Lanarkshire,in Scotland.Jean worked for fifteen years as a machinistat the Daks Simpson textiles factory inLarkhall.The factory closed in 2002,after laying offhundreds ofworkers for severalyears beforehand.It was the biggest employer in Larkhall,and the majority ofits workforcewas female.When Jean had her first child she wanted tocontinue working at Daks,and approached thecompany about job-sharing.She felt thiswould have been a good way to stay in workand keep the long-service benefits she’d builtup over the years.But,despite applyingseveral times,she was told that Daks wouldn’tallow it. “So that was that.I left.That was over sixteen years ago.”  Since then,Jean has re-trained as a nurserynurse.She qualified two years ago,butdespite applying for almost 30 different jobs,she has yet to be given an interview. “That’s shocking.I don’t understand it.What’s the point in putting you throughall that training and everything whenthere’s nothing at the end?”  Research shows that UK labour markets arehighly gendered. 1 Women are oftenconcentrated in low status,insecure jobs inlow-paid sectors such as catering,retail,clerical,and care work.The negativeeffects ofthis segregation are even worsewhen the types oftraining offered towomen don’t reflect the actual jobsavailable in an area.Flexible,secure working is the key toenabling women and men to balance paidwork and caring responsibilities,but that’sstill far from a reality for many. 1 Gender and Employment in Local Labour MarketsResearch Programme,Final Report October 2006.Professor Sue Yeandle,Centre for Social Inclusion,Sheffield Hallam University ...according to young people from the What's With Work programme in SouthLanarkshire,who were clear about what they saw for their futures:care for the girls,and manual trades for the boys. Jean Smith stands outside what used to be the trade entrance to the Daks Simpson factory,Larkhall,whereshe used to work    P   h  o   t  o  :   C   h  r   i  s   W  o  r  r  a   l   l   /   O  x   f  a  m
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