Concepts inherent in feminist theories

Running Head: Is the empowerment of women the single important factor impacting social services to single mothers with children?


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Women empowerment involves the process of increasing women’s’ political, social, economic and spiritual strength to the level were they can develop confidence in their own capabilities as women - Concepts inherent in feminist theories introduction? Women empowerment has been championed by all leading feminist movements today. Indeed these movements have a lot of clout in the world gained from spreading advocacy of gender inequalities and discrimination against women across social, cultural and political structures of our society. Today’s western society has changed dramatically due to the victories of feminist political activists in bringing to the fore pertinent issues; such as a woman’s right of contract and property, a woman’s right to bodily integrity and autonomy [ especially in matters such as reproductive rights, including the right to abortion, , access to contraception and quality prenatal care]. Other forms of discrimination addressed on account of feminism are protection from domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape and workplace rights including maternity leave and equal pay [daily].

These gains have made it possible for single mothers the world over to access paid jobs and social services that have contributed to improved standards of living. In New York City, half of welfare recipients lack a diploma. Despite this fact, the employment rate for single mothers in New York City was 58.7 percent in 2005; their median hourly wage was $11.25, which is appreciably above the minimum wage. The minimum wage was raised in New York State earlier this year to $6.75 an hour. That computes to about$23,400 a year for a 40-hour week. To be expected is the fact that wage rates are far lower for workers without at least a high school education [Jones, 2006].

These are major gains for single mothers on account of women empowerment, especially in New York City, which is among the top most expensive cities in the world. Many single mothers are employed in the city’s service sector — employment characterized by high turnover, low pay, and few on-the-job benefits. But these meager positions can at least be viewed as stepping-stones to better opportunities, as long as these women receive the training, experience and social supports to help them advance. Estimates already indicate that the federal poverty level for a family of three in New York City is about $16,600 a year [Jones, 2006].

Recent research findings seem to allude to the notion that empowerment of women is the single most important factor impacting social services to single mothers with children. The study was conducted by researchers from McMaster University’s Faculty of Health Sciences and attempts to prove that providing single mothers on social assistance with a complete array of services pays for itself within two years. The evaluation consisted of 765 households with 1,300 children, age 0-24 years, and is, by all comparisons, a study of considerable magnitude. Each family was randomly assigned to groups ranging from those receiving no additional services, to those receiving the full spectrum of services, including home visits by public health nurses, job-retraining and recreation for children [].

Among its most outstanding findings it reported that twenty-five per cent of families offered the full range of services exit social assistance compared to 10 per cent of those without the services. For every 100 mothers offered comprehensive services, 25 will go off welfare, for a $500,000 savings within two years in excess of the cost of providing comprehensive services to all 100 mothers. Potentially, this represents significant savings to taxpayers. For example, for every 4,000 Ontario single parents on social assistance receiving proactive, comprehensive services, 1,000 would exit from social assistance in two years. Using $20,000 per household as a conservative estimate for income maintenance and other subsidies, this represents a net savings of $12 million in two years to the Ministry of Community and Social Services with no further cost to the Ministry of Health for the service [].

Offering recreational services alone helps psychologically disordered children on welfare maintain their social, physical and academic competence at a level equal to that of a non-disordered child. Without the services, the child’s competence level actually drops. Recreation pays for itself through reduced use of social and health services (such as probation, child psychiatry and other physician specialties, child psychology and social work.) Providing recreation alone is also associated with good outcomes for the mother, including fewer nervous system problems, less medication usage, less anxiety, reduced reliance on subsidized child care, less counseling and reduced usage of food banks. The impact of providing recreational services alone resulted in a 10 per cent greater exit from social assistance compared to parents of children who did not receive this service [].

Offering public health visits alone resulted in a 12 per cent greater exit. In addition, offering employment retraining alone also resulted in a 10 per cent greater exit, however, the mothers found recreation and public health visits to be more acceptable services offered, and used them more frequently. Although the rate of depression is higher among single mothers as they enter social assistance, more than half of those in the study are functioning well despite their circumstances. “There are many capable and competent mothers out there who are poor, but have strength and resiliency,” Browne explains. “Their children exhibit a competence that is in keeping with non-poor children, and their level of psychological disorder is actually lower than population averages among those whose mother is not depressed [].

Labor market experts seem to concur, pointing out that single-mothers ought to have more opportunities to obtain the skills necessary to earn higher wages. In general, they say that low-income families need a more robust system of income supplementation to fill the gap between their modest earnings and their basic material needs. Lack of benefits makes it tougher for single mothers to get and hold jobs, and forces them to make tough choices. A single mother, working in a job without paid sick leave or vacation days, may have to decide between failing to care properly for a sick child, and losing a day’s pay, or possibly losing her job, if she takes time off from work. With about only 19% of low income parents currently getting child care subsidies in new York city, the cost of child care will remain a stumbling block since most single mothers coming off welfare need child care in order to hold a job, yet the supply of subsidized child care has not kept pace with the rise in single-parent employment [Jones, 2006].

Another angle of assessing the contribution of empowerment to single mothers and their children is in the area of discrimination of the rights of single mothers and their impacts to their development. In Canada, recent legislative and regulatory changes introduced by the government of British Columbia have added to aggravate the plight of the welfare of single mothers and there children by curtailing social assistance to them. Many lobby groups, consisting of feminist organizations and other women empowerment groups have leveled accusations at the government’s double standards when it comes to single women [Brodsky et al.]

Among there list of grievances, they claim that the social assistance regime purports to provide for the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing for the poorest single mothers and their children, but it does not. The regime and related childcare, employment standards and post-secondary education policies also purport to help women to become economically self-sufficient, but, perversely, they have had the effect of creating more barriers to employment for poor women with dependent children. Social assistance rules and policy treat single mother families in often confusing and contradictory ways. This is because the regime is based on stereotypes and myths about single mothers, including the myth that single mothers’ poverty is the result of bad personal choices. Single mothers’ poverty is caused by a combination of social and economic factors, including the undervaluing of child-raising work, the lower value attached to women’s paid work, lack of adequate child care, and the conflict between parent and worker responsibilities. It is too simple and inaccurate to blame single mothers for their own poverty [Brodsky et al.].

Against these accusations, is the reality on the ground, that in 2002, for the first time in twenty years social assistance rates for families with children were cut in British Columbia. A single parent family in 2002 received less (in nominal dollars) than the same family did ten years earlier. single mothers’ social assistance benefits have been negatively affected in a number of ways.

• The basic support portion of the social assistance benefit for employable single parents was cut by $51 a month. Most of the single parents affected are single mothers. This reduction affected families in which approximately 60,000 children live.

• Shelter allowances for families of 3 or more were reduced. Single mothers with two or more children were affected.

• The Family Maintenance Exemption, which had been in place since 1976 and permitted a single parent who was receiving child support payments from a spouse to keep 100 dollars per month, was eliminated. All child support is now deducted dollar for dollar from income assistance benefits. This exemption was used almost exclusively by single mothers.

• The Earnings Exemption was eliminated for “employable” recipients. This exemption allowed people on welfare to work and keep $100 if they were single, or $200 if they had children or a partner. In 2002 single parents were the greatest users of this exemption.

• Changes to eligibility rules mean that single mothers are considered “employable” when their youngest child is 3 (rather than 7 as in 2001 and 12 in 1994). Requiring single mothers to actively seek work in the paid labor force, combined with the lack of adequate, accessible, and affordable child care, puts these women in an impossible position. They are required to seek out (and take up) any available labor force employment when their children may still be too young to be left alone, or, even, to be in school for any portion of the day.

• Full-time students are no longer eligible for social  assistance. Before 2002, single mothers were specifically recognized as a group in need of support  while they improved their educational qualifications and ability to become economically independent.

• The government has also eliminated back-to-work benefits that used to be available to purchase required work clothing or tools, and pay for any uncovered child care expenses. Again, many single mothers are among the most likely to need these, now unavailable, benefits. As well, a number of other changes to laws and policies related to childcare, employment standards and access to post-secondary education adversely affect single mothers as they negotiate the difficult transition to the workforce while maintaining onerous parental responsibilities.


From the foregoing discussion, it is clear that policies geared towards empowering women in society, especially single mothers, are destined to have lasting benefits to society, the tax payer and the government of the day. This is because it is clear that for a single mother with children, the number one desire is her capability to take care of her children. The more she is empowered to dos o, the less de[pendent she automatically becomes of the support from the government.

Besides, in societies that assume that single mother’s desire is to forever live on government support, there governments are having rude wake up call. Lobby groups and feminist human rights bodies are up in arms campaigning for a change in such apperceptions. Incidentally the solutions that are espoused are all geared towards empowering the single mothers with equal opportunities to advance in her career and succeed. Similarly, these opportunities are extended to her children so that they may grow up in ideal environments like those experienced by children from families who have both parents. Any indication that these demands are being denied results in public condemnation citing disregard of basic human rights for single mothers.


Brodsky, al. HUMAN RIGHTS Single Mothers on Social Assistance in British Columbia*social+services&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=ke

Jones, D. [2006] Single Mothers: Working, But Still Poor

McMaster study proves offering services to single mothers and children on welfare “pays for itself” [December 9, 1998]

Miller, B., Finucane, H. and Bjerke, B. HOUSING FOR SINGLE MOTHERS

Perspectives On Poverty, Policy, & Place Winter 2006 • Volume*social+services&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=8&gl=ke

Sexism in the Cities


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