News / Asia

How Women Can Break the Cycle of Poverty

FILE - A Sri Lankan Muslim woman looks out on the street, in Aluthgama, town, 50 kilometers (31.25 miles) south of Colombo, Sri Lanka.
FILE - A Sri Lankan Muslim woman looks out on the street, in Aluthgama, town, 50 kilometers (31.25 miles) south of Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Frances Alonzo

The cycle of poverty is often difficult to break, especially for women.  Author Ritu Sharma witnessed the difficulties first hand in travels through four countries including Sri Lanka. She shares her experience in her book Teach a Woman to Fish. Sharma explains to Daybreak Asia's Frances Alonzo ways she sees that women can challenge and break free from oppressive systems that keep them poor.

How Women Can Break the Cycle of Poverty
How Women Can Break the Cycle of Povertyi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

SHARMA:   So, I have done this practice of living on a dollar a day, four times in a number of different countries. For example, in Sri Lanka, the woman that I stayed with, Malaani, most of her dollar was spent on expenses for the girls to go to school. And even though school was free, you know 50 cents on that dollar is spent on bus fare to get the girls back and forth to school, school supplies, uniforms, things like that. Another chunk of that dollar just went to pay for electricity. And then what was left went into basic food stuffs. The family really wasn’t eating that well. A lot of rice, and a lot of starch but not a lot of protein, not a lot of vegetables. There’s no room for medical care. There’s no room for medicine. There’s no money for anything else other than the most important things. 

ALONZO:  Your book talks about the broader system that [prevents] women from moving past poverty.  Tell us about that.

SHARMA:  Yeah, in Sri Lanka,  a number of women that I met with around the country, as I was talking with them about their experience after the tsunami, talked about how hard it was, to just to meet their basic expenses.  And even though, they were producing more, many of them were, are weavers, and they were weaving more and selling more of their products, they just couldn’t keep up with the basic expenses.  And we started to talk about why that is.  What’s going on there?  And they had a very clear analysis of it. That the government was raising taxes consistently on basic food stuffs, sugar, tea, coffee, bread, rice, to raise the funds for the tsunami reconstruction. And those taxes were outstripping women’s ability to earn income. 

ALONZO:   Beyond taxes, what other issues, in particular in Sri Lanka, did you find that women just can’t just seem to get ahead?

SHARMA:  Oh, so many!  Violence has become such a huge part of women’s lives.  And it is a way of enforcing [the idea on] women, you know, ‘don’t get out of the home.’ That women are not able to take jobs that might pay higher because they must stay in the home. And if they begin to color outside of those lines, there’s a big consequence for that. 

ALONZO:  Violence from whom?

SHARMA:  Violence from male relatives; from fathers, husbands, uncles; just trying to keep women really in their place. The other big issue is just straight up discrimination.  When there are good jobs, they just go to the men because there’s still this assumption that men are breadwinners. But in reality, it’s women’s income that covers the expenses for the family.  Around the world, women invest ninety percent of their income back into their family needs. And for men, that varies, between 30 and 50 percent of their income goes back into the family needs. And so women’s income is very important but they just can’t get the better jobs, that’s the heart of it. 

ALONZO:   Now in the promotional material, for your book, it talks about the old axiom, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime. But, teach a woman to fish, and everyone eats for a lifetime.” Tell me more about that.

SHARMA:  Women do have a tendency to fish and benefit the whole community. But the other thing I mean by fishing is not just earning an income, not just going from a dollar a day to two to three dollars a day. What I really mean by fishing is this ability to engage your world and make a change in it. So, engaging in those local politics, engaging and changing how men think about what women can and can’t do. So when I say fish I don’t just mean the very basic you know, catch that fish or cash that dollar and share it, but I also mean you know having the ability and that instrument whatever it might be to really change your circumstances for the better.

You May Like

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

Euro falls after European Central Bank announces a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program More

Saudi King’s Death Clears Succession Route

Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef is Saudi Arabia's New Crown Prince-in-waiting More

Cloud Hangs Over US Counterterrorism Efforts in Yemen

Sources say resignations of Yemen's president, government has left US anti-terror operations 'paralyzed,' yet an American military 'footprint' remains More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid