The ultimate aim of every government is to bring about – to a large extent, positive changes in the lives of the populace. This is because political leaders are voted for to bring about changes. The success or otherwise of such changes however depend on a number of factors. Most often than not, governments achieve their goals and objectives in bringing about change by instituting and implementing a number of policies that serve as focus for national development. Without any doubt, it is not always that all of these policies achieve the needed or projected results. In some cases always, the policies achieve even beyond what they were targeted for. Presently, the coalition government has implemented a number of policies that analysts see and classify as radical. The radical nature of these policies depends on a number of factors. The present policies are directed towards welfare in the public sector. Identifying women as core components of national issues and national development, a lot of critics have raised issues on how these policies can or may affect women. This essay therefore outlines some of these major effects that the policy is likely to have on women; both in the short term and long term.
Welfare Reform Bill
Welfare was founded during the Great Depression. The policy entails giving cash assistance to the poor. The beneficiaries are mostly mothers and children. The Reforms affected the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. Child support enforcement, child care, child nutrition in addition to a law on reducing non marital births among others. The old system was criticized for encouraging idling. The new welfare rules require recipients to go to work within two years after receiving assistance. The policy limits most assistance to five years total and enjoins states to deny additional benefits to mothers who give birth to children whilst still on welfare benefits. The Bill is intended to reduce dependence, child poverty and illegitimacy and strengthen marriage.
Since the Bill was implemented, many of the objectives have been achieved: there has been a decline in monies paid to welfare. Such monies have been redirected to education, training, and child care. About seventy five percent of mothers have been employed since leaving welfare. Overall child poverty also declined. The rates of non marital births have fallen and continue to fall (Sawhill et al 2011),
The Health and Social Care Bill
The Health and Social Bill was first put up in the UK parliament in 2001. It sought to safeguard the failure of the National Health Service. Among the objectives were to free up the health providers from bureaucracy and be more innovative. To empower patients by making available choices to them or in other words tailor healthcare to their needs and to give the public health sector a focus.
There was the need for reform due to rising demand and treatment costs. There were variations in quality of health care across the country. Integrated services do not exist. Care for patients is fragmented throughout the Health Care Service, The Health Care budgets were increasing over the years with significant chunks spent on bureaucracy. Health care costs were rising in all spheres, for example, the cost of medicine has been growing on the average of nearly six hundred million pounds a year. (The Case for Change – The Health and Social Care Bill)
Impact of these Policies in Women
The Welfare Reform Bill is principally about women since about 75% of women are recipients of the welfare dole outs. Women are poor because of a long history of stereotyping them into certain roles. They do not have opportunities that their male counterparts have because some jobs are sex segregated. Reform is geared towards imposing compulsory work requirement on women irrespective of their reproductive roles in society. Poor women are denied welfare aid to any child born to them when they are on welfare stipends.
Welfare reform gives an impression that women are a cause of the nation’s woes, because of their child bearing behavior. Failed marriages and cohabitation have been the causes of non-marital births which is not entirely the fault of such women.
Welfare policies sinisterly attack fertility of women, by initiating subtle policies such as family planning programs, which involve forced sterilization using Norplant contraceptives for example. The forced work regime for single mothers with children would require government services such as child care assistance to help single parents succeed at the work place.
The Health and Social Care Bill on the other hand offers prospects for enhanced health care delivery. To be successful, all public bodies set up to implement the law must have due regard to eliminate unlawful discrimination.
What Child Poverty Action Groups are Saying
Child Policy Action Group supports governments aim to increase simplicity and fairness in benefit system. They however have issues with benefit variations which would negatively affect disability children. Such variations include child care cost, and housing allowances among others.
In the UK, government is legislating on setting a cap on housing benefit as a means of austere welfare benefits. The child policy action group which campaigns against poverty has caked for a review of the law (Ramesh, 2011). At the time of the passage of the law there were predictions of social disaster and increased poverty for children. Children’s Defense Fund “How the Welfare Bill Profoundly Harms Children” July 31 1996.
Contrary to such predictions, child poverty has fallen. 1.6 million fewer children live in poverty today than in 1995 (Robert, 2006) Power, prejudice, discrimination, oppression are interrelated with each other (Farley, 1995). One re enforces the other. Possession of power tends to induce supremacy. One who wields power may see others as unequal that gives rise to prejudice. Prejudice gives birth to discrimination and the harvest of discrimination is oppression. Oppression expresses itself in various facets: racism, sexism, ageism, colonialism and many other ways. These terms are interrelated and layered. The exercise of these tendencies is innate in human populations and such tendencies have influenced human existence throughout civilization. The unwarranted use of these traits have destabilized societies.
Refers to the ability to get others to do something or the capacity control the behavior or intentions of others either intentionally or otherwise. The motive is invariably selfish. Power can be derived from delegated authority, as obtains in democratic governments elected by universal adult suffrage. Belonging to a social class can confer power on self. Power can also emanate from material wealth or resources possessed. Personal traits such as charisma and expertise can confer power on the possessors.
Celebrities exude power. All these groups mentioned above become agents of power. Some of these agents use dominance, the behavior trait that aspires to acquire power, to influence others. Authority is power that derives from institutional roles. Individuals derive power from the groups they belong. Referent power derives from the influence of an agent, for example young people tend to mimic celebrities. Status, authority and dominance are all potential determinants of power.
Prejudice, Discrimination and Oppression.
Prejudice is a set of negative personal beliefs or opinions held by members of one group about another that tends to prejudge the latter group by the former group. The prejudiced group does not take into account individual differences among the prejudged group. Most individuals are prejudiced because they have a low self esteem. Theorists hold that prejudice seem to be passed along from parents to children. It is also imbibed from the media-television, movies, advertisements all these perpetuate demeaning stereotypes.
Prejudice rears its ugly head in Ethnocentrism, the tendency to evaluate other cultures by referring them to one’s cultural norms and values. Prejudice also arise in groups who close their doors to other groups in order to maintain their distinct identities for example, some educational institutions were segregated based on color.
Prejudice is pervasive in society and individual prejudices are difficult to cure. In order to minimize prejudice, individuals must develop higher self esteem. Appropriate social education is necessary. Bringing together different groups so they can learn from each other would be useful. Co-educational institutions are good examples of this integration. Conflicting groups must lay aside individual interests and work together.
At the legal level, enforcement of laws against prejudice would bring about compliance. Generally governments must endeavor to create equal economic and social conditions in the country, to minimize competition that breeds prejudice.
Discrimination entails the preferential allocation of resources or services and or the limitation of access to full participation in society, by certain social groups. Individual discrimination manifests in unequal treatment based on race or ethnicity (Farley, 2000). Legal discrimination is unequal treatment of groups that is upheld by the law. Institutional Discrimination is treatment that is entrenched in social institutions (Farley, (2000).
Oppression is what happens when a group of people are pressed down by societies. This can involve imposition of ideology or culture, or institutional control. Some of the methods of oppression include sexism, racism, ageism, colonialism, among others. Sexism is prejudice based on gender. It is the actions that foster male supremacy.
Origin of sexism dates to creation. The woman was created as an afterthought according to the Bible. She was made subservient to the man. Sexism is rooted in the world’s major religions- Christianity and Islam. In most of these faiths, the woman may never aspire to priesthood. In Islamic culture, the woman is restricted; she may have to veil herself if she has to go outdoors. Sexism prevails at the workplace; sexual harassment by colleagues is common place. Women take on lower level jobs; they earn less income than men in same occupations.
These disparities could be due to the practice that women expect to take time off to care for others. They tend to put less importance on job outcome. They tend to compare themselves with other women. Women are effective leaders yet people do not hold them in high regard because the evaluators are males (Farley, 1988). Women find obtaining support more difficult in high echelons of management and are therefore left out of important networks and therefore have to fight to be recognized. It is a man’s world.
In conclusion, Power mismanaged can result into prejudice. Prejudice gives birth to discrimination. The final result is oppression. There is still a long road to travel to achieve gender parity. Education must continue, women must continue to break the “glass ceiling”. They should assert themselves and break away from the stereotyped role that men have placed them.