Where a woman lives in Latin America increases her risk of being disadvantaged – new report

A young woman works in a restaurant in Las Carnitas, a rural town out of San Vicente, El Salvador. The new IFAD-supported report shows that the most vulnerable are often women living in poor rural communities. ©IFAD/Pablo Corral Vega
A young woman works in a restaurant in Las Carnitas, a rural town out of San Vicente, El Salvador. The new IFAD-supported report shows that the most vulnerable are often women living in poor rural communities. ©IFAD/Pablo Corral Vega

6 April 2016, Bogota – Whether a woman can generate her own income and resources in Latin America is closely tied to what territory she lives in, warns a new report produced by the RIMISP-Latin American Center for Rural Development, with support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the International Centre for Development Research-Canada (IDRC).

Launching today in Bogota, the Poverty and Inequality Latin American Report 2015 analyses data in Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Peru and finds economic inequalities in specific territories within countries studied not only affects a woman’s quality of life, but also the development of the country itself.

The new report, aimed at policymakers, researchers, and decision makers, says territorial inequality is a significant reality in Latin America in areas as diverse as education, health, economic development and employment, income generation, security and gender equality.

According to the report, where a woman lives correlates with whether she is likely to be economically disadvantaged. The report shows that the most vulnerable are often women living in poor rural communities, especially those of African and indigenous descent.

This inequality is related not only to a woman's personal assets and resources, but also to factors beyond her control, such as whether the territory she lives in has dynamic markets, productive economic sectors, and public policies that facilitate women's integration.

"What this report makes abundantly clear is that the economic inequality women are facing in Latin America is predominately found in rural areas," said Joaquin Lozano, IFAD Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

"And that taking a territorial and gender-focused approach to development can help reduce these gaps."

Through the Territorial Equality Index, the researchers used a series of key welfare indicators to measure development gaps among territories within the countries.

In its first measurement, the index highlighted Bolivia as the country with the greatest territorial equality, which means that the development gaps in its territories were the smallest in the 10 countries analysed.  

At the other extreme, Guatemala was shown as the most inequitable country in regards to economic dynamism, investment in human capital and the dimension of income.

In order to solve these challenges and bridge the gaps, the report makes a number of recommendations on public policies aimed at improving the living conditions of some of the region's poorest women.

These include:

  • When designing job training programs, consider the productive sectors' characteristics and possibilities for including women.
  • When designing policies that tend to decrease the opportunity cost of employment of women, consider the supply of public goods and services of each territory (availability of care centres of infants, children or older adults, etc.).
  • Leverage policies that support women's associative work, both productive and political.
  • Strengthen and help create venues for community organization for the development of women's personal abilities and empowerment through collective strategies for creating and mobilizing assets.
  • Direct actions towards influencing gender systems, rather than aiming them only at women (care, gender violence). 
  • Design policies that address crossed inequalities affecting women (women, indigenous, poor, etc.), with special attention to territories’ socio-demographic characteristics.
  • Design specific policies for rural sectors that improve women's access to economic assets, such as land and credit.
  • Create instruments to support women's productive activities that go beyond a mindset of subsistence and the reproduction of traditional gender roles.

Download the report summary in English.

Download the report in Spanish.

Press release No.: IFAD/17/2016

IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, we have provided US$17.6 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached about 459 million people. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized United Nations agency based in Rome – the UN’s food and agriculture hub.