Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Gender Attitudes Shape Perceptions of Women’s Economic Empowerment in Tanzania

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In the bustling communities of Mwanza, Tanzania, the traditional roles of men and women are being challenged as more women enter the workforce. While this shift is integral to global development, it brings to light differing views between mothers and fathers, particularly when it comes to balancing employment with child-rearing responsibilities. This study delves into the contrasting perceptions of maternal employment among parents of young children, revealing how deeply rooted gender norms influence these views.

Women’s economic empowerment is widely regarded as a cornerstone for achieving gender equality and fostering global development. Despite extensive research underscoring the benefits of women’s participation in the labor force within low- and middle-income countries, few studies have focused on the perceptions of caregivers regarding the intersection of women’s economic roles, childcare, and family responsibilities.

Parental Perceptions on Employment and Parenting

Researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 23 mothers and 29 fathers of children under two years old, alongside nine focus group discussions across four communities in Mwanza. The data analysis, employing both deductive and inductive methodologies, highlighted significant gender-based discrepancies in how maternal employment is perceived.

Mothers generally viewed employment positively, associating it with beneficial outcomes for parenting, children, and the family as a whole. In stark contrast, most fathers expressed resistance to women’s employment, harboring restrictive gender attitudes and fears of diminished power within the household.

Impact on Marital Dynamics and Parenting

The study revealed that men often feared that maternal employment could lead to increased marital conflicts, deteriorating maternal parenting quality, and adverse child outcomes. These perceptions underscore the need for addressing gender norms to foster a supportive environment for women’s economic empowerment.

Women’s empowerment programs that include men in efforts to transform gender norms and enhance couple relationships show promise in yielding comprehensive benefits for families. These programs should aim to promote positive parenting practices and equitable sharing of child-rearing responsibilities.

Key Insights for Policy and Program Design

– Engaging men in women’s economic empowerment initiatives is crucial for altering restrictive gender norms.
– Programs should include components that strengthen couple relationships to mitigate fears of marital conflicts.
– Positive parenting practices should be promoted to ensure beneficial child and family outcomes.

In conclusion, the study underscores the importance of addressing gender attitudes to support women’s economic empowerment. By involving men and prioritizing family dynamics, these initiatives can achieve widespread benefits, not just for mothers but for fathers and young children as well.

Original Article: World Dev. 2024 Jul;179:106626. doi: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2024.106626. Epub 2024 Apr 5.

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