Female Household Headship as an Asset?

Interrogating the Intersections of Urbanisation, Gender and Domestic Transformations (2016)

Chant, Sylvia
in Caroline Moser (ed.) Gender, Asset Accumulation and Just Cities: Pathways to Transformation (Routledge: London), 21-39

The focus of this chapter is female household headship, which appears to be increasing in the context of ongoing urbanisation in the Global South, and has frequently been the subject of quite heated debate about what this means for women and well- being.

Despite a general consensus that urbanisation is conducive to greater gender equality, and that cities are ‘good for women’, this does not necessarily encompass female-headed households, whose growth in numbers and proportions in the past few decades has commonly been linked to a ‘feminisation of poverty’.
While polarised generalisations of female household heads as ‘victims’ or ‘heroines’ have met with justifiable criticism, this chapter interrogates whether, and to what extent, female household headship might be considered as an ‘asset’ with a role to play in making cities of the future more gender-equitable. As the nominal ‘poorest of the poor’, women who head households purportedly fare worse than they would in male-headed households, and end up entrapping themselves and those who reside with them in situations of cumulative privation. Young dependent household members are thought to be particularly exposed to an ‘inter-generational transmission of disadvantage’, which does little to unsettle pervasive stereotypes of female-headed households as income-deprived, vulnerable and inferior to a patriarchal ‘norm’.

About the Book

With more than half the world’s population now living in urban areas, urbanisation is undoubtedly one of the most important phenomena of the 21st century. However, despite increasing recognition of the critical relationship between economic and social development in cities, gender issues are often overlooked in understanding the complexities of current urbanisation processes. This book seeks to rectify this neglect. Gender, Asset Accumulation and Just Cities explores the contribution that a focus on the gendered nature of asset accumulation brings to the goal of achieving just, more equitable cities. To date neither the academic debates nor the formulated policy and practice on just cities has included a focus on gender-based inequalities, discriminations, or opportunities. From a gender perspective, a separate discourse exists, closely associated with gender justice, particularly in relation to urban rights and democracy. Neither, however, has addressed the implications for women’s accumulation of assets and associated empowerment for transformational pathways to just cities. In this book, contributors specifically focus on gender and just cities from a wide range of gendered perspectives that include households, housing, land, gender-based violence, transport, climate, and disasters.


Copyright © Sylvia Chant
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