Rural women living in poverty in the developing countries - where most of these women live - were found by a 1992 UN report to have "increased by almost 50% over the past 20 years to an awesome 565 million - 374 million of them in Asia and 129 million in sub-Saharan Africa" (Power, 1993, p.5, cited by Moghadam). The term "poverty" "is more than income poverty - it is the denial of choices and opportunities for living a tolerable life" (UNDP, 1997, p. 2, cited by Moghadam). Developments the world over in these past years have apparently made the conditions of women in the global south even more difficult. What are these international development trends Let us look at some of them.
Using World Bank classification, the fifteen heavily indebted nations in 1970 - mostly from the south - "had an external public debt of $17.923 billion - which amounted to 9.8 percent of their GNP. By 1987, these same nations owed $402.171 billion, or 47.5 percent of their GNP" (Ferraro and Rosser, 1994, p.1). In 2001, total Third World debt was a staggering $2.6 trillion (Dennis, 2004).
The continuing debt issue dates back after the oil crisis of 1973-1974 when many commercial banks found themselves with petrodollars to spare and decided to invest this capital by lending them to developing countries eager for loans, reeling as they were from the oil price increase (Ferraro & Rosser). The problem came to a head during the global recession of 1981-1982 when these countries could not pay back their loans on schedule (Ferraro & Rosser). These led the debtor countries to restructure their debt by loaning from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. These loans came with structural adjustment packages (SAP). These SAPs which have been criticized "for their adverse effects on the poor and on women" (Moghadam, p.19), include: government spending reduction, local currency devaluation, import restriction devaluation, wage cuts, foreign investment restriction removal, government enterprises privatization, and market deregulation (Bellow, 1994, p.27 as cited by Dennis). SAPs caused women to carry most heavily the responsibility of dealing with increased prices and shrinking incomes, since they're mostly responsible for household budgeting and maintenance; rise in unemployment and reduced wages for men in a given household led to increased labor-market activity for the women and children; and, women increased their paid and unpaid labor (Moghadam). Research found, for example, that gender inequalities combined with SAPs in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico led to increases in poverty, with greater effects on women (World Bank, 1990b, cited by Moghadam). And, some evidence has shown that women were the special victims of the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, a crisis exacerbated by IMF SAP prescriptions (Moghadam).
Labour and Women
According to an International Labour Organization (ILO) paper, the level of women's participation in the labour force in the past decades "has been increasing in most parts of the world" (1996a, p.1). In this same paper, provisional estimates from developing countries pegged the participation of women in the labour force at 44% in 1994, not taking into consideration that many of the economically active women work in the rural and urban