The Effect of Livelihood Activity on Gender Roles and Fertility Intention: Men and Women in Coastal Areas in Mindanao

Code:    06-055
Date:    05/01/2006 - 03/28/2007

The study gathered empirical evidence at the household and community level in 4 coastal areas in Mindanao, 2 in Misamis Oriental and 2 in Surigao del Norte on the effect of livelihood activity on gender roles and fertility intentions of couples.  Specifically, the research determined if economic empowerment leads to an improvement in the decision making of couples especially on family size.

Main Findings of the Study: (1) Couples give high priority on economic security.  They do not rely entirely on piecemeal and occasional people organization (PO) livelihood projects; (2) Gender role differentiation occurs in community work where men do the so-called “heavy tasks” while women are assigned “light” tasks; (3) Gender role differentiation also occurs in the family where wives assume the supporting role as helper or partner to their husbands in livelihood activities; (4) Men and women in POs have equal opportunities in decision-making and in getting elected into office recognizing that responsibilities in the organization can be done by either sex; (5) Involvement of PO members in livelihood activities has no significant impact on their decision-making on family size. Despite the said weak link, communication between husband and wife on family planning (FP) and FP use improved; (6) Livelihood activities, particularly gender sensitivity training, enable women to break away from gender-stereotype roles without creating family conflict; and (7) More males do not intend to have more children due to old age, menopausal stage of their wives and financial difficulty.  However, there is a gap between intention and behavior, especially among males who rely only on women to assume the responsibility to practice FP.

Conclusions: (1) Livelihood activities influence gender roles by creating better communication between husband and wife, and by empowering women to express their views on FP; (2) Unsustainable livelihood activities do not impact significantly on fertility intentions of couples; and (3) Economic pressure significantly affects rural couples FP intention and use.

Recommendations:(1) Incorporate an FP component (e.g., training, IEC and advocacy) in livelihood projects; (2) Establish livelihood projects that target the skills and interests of women; (3) Provide support systems that enable women to find work outside the home; (4) Use positive role models to counteract misconceptions about FP methods; (5) Increase the accessibility of popular and acceptable FP methods; and (6) Establish innovative programs that enhance the involvement of men in both FP intention and FP use.

PopDev Messages: (1) With fewer children, parents can better manage the social, economic and health aspects of their lives; (2) With fewer children, families can afford to invest in productive ventures that provide higher incomes; and (3) Family planning for economic stability is not solely a woman’s job.