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  • Explaining Inter-Household Gender Inequality in Cameroon: An Oaxaca-Blinder Approach1


    Francis Menjo Baye and Boniface Ngah Epo 2

    Department of Economics and Management University of Yaoundé II, Cameroon

    P.O. Box 1365 Yaoundé E-mail: bayemenjo@yahoo.com and epongahb@yahoo.fr

    Abstract This paper spatially and inter-temporally investigates inter-household gender inequality and poverty in Cameroon between 1996 and 2001 using the Oaxaca-Blinder approach and the ECAM I and ECAM II household surveys. Personal household characteristics are believed to be associated with inter-household inequality as suggested by gender-neutral and gender- bias indicators. We use a series of econometric analyses to identify variables such as: level of educational, household size and type, age and experience, sector of activity and milieu of residence as among those that are significantly associated with household real expenditures, gender inequality and poverty. Discrimination coefficients depict varying trends for the various factors that accounts for gender inequality in Cameroon with discrimination biased in favor of male headed households. Policy implications point to the need for bridging educational differences between genders, alleviating regional disparities, putting in place mechanism that rationalize household sizes, regulating the informal sector and encouraging development oriented investments in rural areas. Tacking these issues may reduce inter- household gender inequality and augment well-being of grass-root populations.

    I. Introduction

    Inequality remains a crucial issue in complementing welfare enhancement strategies (Atkinson, 1997; Atkinson and Bourguignon, 2000). Gender inequality analysis is currently a topic of intense debate by many researchers and policy makers. Most countries now integrate gender welfare issues in almost all their policy implications because most reports (UN Millennium development Goals Report, 2006; UN Millennium development Goals Indicator Database, 2007; UNESCO, 2007; Kabeer, 2003; etc.) reveal that there is a high degree of gender discrimination in favor of men when it comes to implementing or establishing policies that can help increase the standard of living of the grass root populations. Moreover, input

    1This paper is extracted from a research work carried out with financial and scientific support from the Poverty and Economic Policy (PEP) Research Network, which is financed by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and by the Government of Canada through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) . 2 Boniface Ngah Epo is a Research student in the Faculty of Economics and Management, University of Yaoundé II, and Francis Menjo Baye is an associate Professor in the same Institution.



  • analysis on public budget formulation through a gender lens is still lacking in Cameroon. Balmori (2003) asserts that budget initiatives worldwide (Cameroon inclusive) have inherited the gender-blindness of macroeconomic models which lack adequate data, transparency and participation, and inappropriate projections, etc. Likewise, Cagatay et al., (2000) takes this issue further by questioning how the design of macroeconomic frameworks and policies take into account the voices and interest of women and poor people with a provision for democratizing decision making processes.

    The African Union Solemn Declaration of Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA, 2004) aimed at addressing issues of major concern to women of Africa consolidated the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment in policy debate and orientation. Currently, international policy agenda has been reshaped through policy platforms such as the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo and the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. In view of achieving national and global development goals, particularly those underscored in the Millennium Development Goals3 (MDG), with the third goal (MDG 3) specifically addressing the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women, most government now implement crucial policies that aim at bridging gender inequality and poverty.

    In Africa in general, and Cameroon in particular, despite substantial strides towards promoting gender equality and empower women in some areas (e.g. in political participation), women still face enormous constraints (a disproportionate burden of the HIV/AIDS pandemic; they suffer more gender-based violence within their homes; limited access to productive resources especially land). Baye and Fambon (2009) further notes that with a high fertility level in Cameroon, women continue to bear huge health and reproductive health burdens. New challenges, including globalization and climate change, may also disproportionately affect women.

    For instance, the UN Millennium Development Goal Report (2006) noted a failure in gender parity in the attainment of educational objectives as highlighted by the MDG3 objective which states the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women (Department For International Development (DFID), 2007). Although women empowerment is one of the key MDGs enacted by the government of Cameroon, Cameroon has been very slow in moving this process4 forward. According to the UNDP Cameroon Office (MDG progress report, 2002; 2003) it seems unlikely, given the progress made for Cameroon to attain most of the MDG3 objectives before the dateline set for the full implementation of all the MDGs in view of halving poverty by 2015. Sen and Anand (1995), while evaluating theories and measurement of gender inequality in human development, acknowledge the key role of adequate indicators in illuminating differences between men and women.

    3 An assessment of global progress on the MDGs noted a slight change in tides with “doors slowly opening for women in the labor market”. However, women still account for over 60% of unpaid family workers (UN DESA, 2007); only 17% of members of single or lower houses of parliament; and more girls than boys remain out of school (UNSD, 2007). 4 Most advantages which constitute an important stock of resources, which can help boost and diversify the economy of a developing country like Cameroon are ill partitioned between men and women. It is thus urgent that this situation be overcome which if left unheeded, will weaken the foundations for sustainable development- undermining the country’s social fabric-and act as potential cause of the stagnation observed in the fight to curb poverty.


  • A better understanding of inequality patterns is vital in comprehending patterns of economic growth, development and enhancing local welfare. Among the 18 million inhabitants that live in Cameroon, about 52% is made up of women (INS, 2007; 2008). In addition, the overwhelming majority of the 70% of people living in rural areas, and mostly practicing farming activities are women (INS, 2004; 2005). In this context, the government of Cameroon has as one of its main objectives the fight against poverty and bridging inequality5 gaps between regions, population sub-groups and gender, with the aim of increasing development and grass-root well-being though efficient and effective policies (Government of Cameroon; 2000; 2003).

    At the national level, Cameroon has ratified a number of international conventions and instruments related to gender issues, one of which is The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Unfortunately, we still identify gender- bias and gender-neutral behaviours that discriminate and violate women rights. Since the crisis period of the mid 1980s, household income generating activities have been restructured, giving women a more important role in different activities to ensure the availability of goods and services for family consumption. Thus, at the root of gender dimension of inequality and poverty is unequal access and control of productive resources by men and women.

    In Cameroon we observe a dichotomy when analyzing reproduction and productive works. While the overall burden of the former is shouldered by women (this is labor intensive and time-consuming), the latter considered as “real work” because it involves the production of goods and services are in favor of men. Moser and Levy (1980) observe that when most individuals are asked what they do, their response is often related to productive works in which they are either paid for, or which generates income. This is likely based on very constricted definition of the type of workload attributable to women (Kabeer, 2003).

    Socio-cultural fabric in most traditions in developing countries and Cameroon have out rightly been in favor of men6, notably as concerns land inheritance, relegating the women to secondary roles that prevent them from acquiring and developing assets to participate fully in realizing growth potentials that can aid households break away from poverty and inequality traps (World Bank, 2005 and; Endeley and Sikod, 2006; Fonjong, 2001). These differences or disadvantages that are gender-oriented and skewed in favor of men affect supply responses and resource allocation both at micro (household) and macro levels of well-being (Sikod, 2006). Gender analysts remark that women and children are more vul