Twenty-Five / Missing Women and Animal Farm

First, read this week's article on the evolution of Amartya Sen's idea of missing women. Next, notes on George Orwell's Animal Farm, an all-time allegorical classic. Later, an assessment of the conditional success of the microfinance revolution in developing economies. 

Weekly Article

Why are the 'Missing Women' Missing?

The skewed gender ratio across Asia, particularly India and China, prefaced the notion of missing women. Since then, the trends and reasons behind missing women have been of great interest to development economists.

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Book Notes

Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945)

Though Animal Farm needs no introduction, this line sums it all:

"All animals are equal but some are more equal than others."

Although this book is a work of fiction, its emotions and values are not fictitious. It is a valuable lesson in the political economy of socialist and communist societies. Animals at the Manor Farm started with an intent to create an equal and accountable world - free from any suppression by men - for themselves. But, as in any other society, some animals - the pigs, most notably - climb the ladder, creating a hierarchy of power. The animals all this while striving for equality found themselves in another version of the same unequal society - the one where all were equal but some were more equal than others.  

"There, comrades, is the answer to all our problems. It is summed up in a single word—Man. Man is the only real enemy we have. Remove Man from the scene, and the root cause of hunger and overwork is abolished for ever. Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals."

The way these farm animals resent men mirrors the resentment of farm laborers towards their landlords in agrarian societies. But the premise that man is the only creature that consumes without producing has evolved with time. Men manufacture products for their needs and also for the needs of animals, especially pets. In the world of Pedigree Petfood and dog collars, even animals consume what man produces.  

Even man has been successful in creating artificial substitutes for natural products. We have come a long way from petroleum-based synthetic fibers such as polyester to soy and almond milk to 'artificial' meat. There might be a situation, decades or even centuries later when we become independent of animals and their products. Is it too good to assume, given that influences such as climate change and the rise of automation are at work?

What are we Thinking?

Did microfinance create an impact on the lives of women in developing economies?

Yes and no. Economic and financial freedom, better healthcare and education, and greater access to credit can empower women to take on roles outside the traditional boundaries of the household. Even economists perceived microfinance as the silver bullet in eradicating global poverty. 

Though it has uplifted women to start their businesses independently or through peer effects, it has also created new inequalities within the most vulnerable sections. The impact of microfinance has excluded - in some cases, exploited - the most marginalized castes and classes among women. The lack of financial awareness and business training among rural women coupled with regulatory challenges that the microfinance revolution faced resulted in sub-optimal outcomes in poverty alleviation. 

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