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  • Online publication date: December 2014

6 - Mexico: Women and Poverty (1994–2004): Progresa-Oportunidades Conditional Cash Transfer Programme

Summary

Introduction

This presentation will analyze and reflect on the socioeconomic status of low-income households headed by women in Mexico, particularly with regard to inequality in the workplace, salary and educational discrimination. In addition, the government's Progresa-Oportunidades Programme, designed to provide support for poor women, will be scrutinized.

Currently, several poverty-remediation programmes involving conditional cash transfers are in operation in Mexico. An example of these programmes is the Food, Health and Education Programme (Progresa-Oportunidades) launched at the end of the 1990s. This Programme is centred on the concept of maternalism, a vision of the traditional, social and biological roles of women, and it offers poor women cash in exchange for good motherhood. In order to ensure success, women are incorporated into the design of the Programme in a way that deepens gender division. Progresa-Oportunidades ultimately also reinforces social division, with the resulting replication of gender asymmetries, even though the management of the support resources to some extent empowers women within the household. Underprivileged mothers often participate in the Programme in the hope that their daughters will gain access to opportunities to improve their lives. In other words, the programme is used as a female survival strategy.

Poor Households Headed by Women

Over the past thirty years, economic transformation, characterized by unstable employment and a broad process of increasingly precarious labour circumstances, has taken a heavy toll on women in terms of living and working conditions.