Synopses & Reviews
Poverty and inequality are increasing in developing countries such as Egypt--where women particularly suffer. Those in charge of female-headed households comprise a very large category of socially-deprived women--almost 30% of all Egyptian families. This book looks at how these women cope with poverty, and how they extract benefits such as welfare payments and pensions from state agencies and religious welfare organizations. Her findings conclude that women in these positions encounter a serious gender bias.
Poverty and inequality are on the increase in developing countries forced to struggle with economic stabilization programmes. But, as this book shows, in addition to an anti-poor bias (despite rhetoric to the contrary), which almost all governments carrying out liberalization now display, women in particular suffer. Dr Bibars looks at one very large category of socially deprived women in Egypt: those who support and manage their own households. These households now comprise something like 18-30 per cent of all urban Egyptian families. Bibars investigates how these women cope with poverty and how they seek to extract benefits, welfare payments and pensions in particular, from both state agencies and religious (Coptic as well as Muslim) welfare organizations. In both cases, she finds that Egyptian women encounter a serious gender bias which is especially directed against those women forced by circumstance to head their own households.
This work is a profoundly insightful investigation into the gendered nature of the state. Iman Bibars shows how this bias distorts not only the delivery of social services but also the response of women. However much women may wish to oppose their oppressive conditions and try to manipulate an oppressive system, they are severely limited in their efforts and strategies for changing their subordination to men. This finding, reached in spite of the author's own commitment to women's equality, is an important corrective to any undue optimism about gender relations and the direction in which they are moving.
About the Author
Iman Bibars is a consultant who has worked with the World Bank, various UN agencies, the Population Council, and the European Commission in Cairo.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: Gendering the State
2. The Feminist Researcher Among the Women 3. Defining Female Headship
4. Women, Welfare and the State
5. The Politics of Exclusion
6. Beyond the Veil: Religion and Welfare
7. Women as Victims, Women as Survivors?