Here's an interesting question. What does drive female autonomy in developing countries? The underlying assumption is that one does want females to be autonomous as in vast swathes of the world, they are under the thumb of man and are not economically, politically, socially active and independent. And this cuts across regions, religions, the problem is the men, not the religion or region, although both factors do have a role to play (so will the theologians and political economy/geographers will attest to).
So what are the drivers to female autonomy? I bumped into this paper by Siwan Anderson and Mukesh Eswaran in the Journal of Development Economics,which analysed the contributions of earned versus unearned income in enhancing women’s autonomy and the role of employment outside of their husband’s farm. The researchers report that autonomy helps in "long-term reduction in fertility, higher child survival rates, and allocation of resources in favour of children in the household"
The authors study thousands of families in a relatively poor area of Bangladesh and come up with some interesting results. Seems like earned wage income is more important than unearned income. In other words, if the woman is working on her husbands' farm, then it is not important and does not offer autonomy to the woman concerned. The income generated by the farm is not under the control of the woman, so her labour is not rewarded in terms of having control over its spending....
Seems like they have suggested doing poultry rearing as a very good way of providing direct income to the women. Bird Flu notwithstanding, this is a result which made me think a bit more about my ideas of getting the women into productive society. We have to do more about getting these women more funding...
I also wonder what's the situation is within the developed countries...And lo and behold, I read this rather interesting article about Asian women in the UK. I quote:
Asian women don't have personalities, they have post-traumatic stress disorder. In my experience, I argued, Asian women, being the product of patriarchal culture, are either incredibly servile or terrifyingly aggressive. In the former case, they have simply been crushed by their experience and, in the latter, they have to fight so hard for their independence that they have become brutalised by the experience and, even when they have gained their freedom, they can't stop fighting.
Hmmm, just cannot win, can you?