Currently, women make almost a half of the world’s population (World Survey on the Role of Women in Development, 2006). In the rural and urban communities, both in developed and developing countries, women are the ones who take care of the young, the sick, and the old people. Moreover, they are the ones who procure two of the most important resources in the world: water and fuel. This is an indication that the role of women in social and economic development is inevitably important in both developed and developing world.
Lover and Feuerstein (1985) agree that women contribute to development through taking care of the young. This anticipates taking care of children when they are young. Women play a vital role through ensuring that young children grow up as healthy individuals. The health of an individual is vital in undertaking day-to-day activities. Once the young children attain the school age, women take them to school. This way, women contribute to development through ensuring that the future generation acquires education to help them become productive people in the society. Herz (1989) takes a similar position by stating that women not only take care of children when they are young, but also they continue taking care of them until they reach maturity and leave home to stay on their own. Throughout this time, women ensure that children are educated and healthy. Education and health are two vital components of economic and social development (Herz, 1989).
In the 2004 Fourth World Conference on Women, many governments of the world recognized that women are the greatest contributors to the world’s economy and to poverty reduction efforts (World Survey on the Role of Women in Development, 2006). Recognition of women’s contribution to economic development was based on the labor market trends. Statistics indicates that the number of women joining the labor market has increased over the last two decades. Although many of the women entrants to the labor market work in low level jobs, they contribute greatly to the economic development since more than 50 percent of the world’s labor force work in low-level jobs. In fact, the low-level workers are the ones who are involved in production of outputs, which act as sources of revenue in many economic sectors. Therefore, by working in low-level jobs, women play a vital role in economic development. Most of women’s efforts in poverty reduction fall under unpaid labor. These are the activities, which women undertake in their homes as well as volunteer activities in their communities directed towards poverty reduction.
However, numerous obstacles prevent women from fully participating in economic and social development. These include gender inequality, poor pay, lack of resources, and discrimination (World Survey on the Role of Women in Development, 2006). Gender inequality is a longtime problem, which continues to exist even in the modern world. Women are still not given opportunities, equal to those of their male counterparts, despite presence of the equal opportunities right. In addition, women still receive low pay even when they possess education. According to a 2005 survey, women’s earnings in the formal employment sectors accounted for 70 percent of the men’s earnings in the same sector (World Survey on the Role of Women in Development, 2006). Some of the efforts undertaken today to overcome these obstacles include affirmative action and advocacy of the right to equal opportunities. In addition, many governments of the world are promoting girl-child education in order to ensure that women get access to education.
However, there are those who refute that women contribute to development. Gandhi (2002) refutes that women do not contribute to development because they perform only two-thirds of the hours worked and their income only accounts for one-tenth of the world’s income, their contribution to development is insignificant. They use their arguments to explain why countries where the population of women surpasses that of men experience high levels of poverty. They say it happens because women contribute neither to economic nor to social development.