This article explores the socio-economic situation of female heads and poor heads of household in rural Botswana by means of a case study of the village of Nshakazhogwe, a village considered to be typical for rural east Botswana. It examines the extent to which the occurrence of poverty of household heads is related to their gender, varies with the numbers in that household, and depends on whether or not they have paid employment. The number of sources and types of sources of income that household heads have are considered and are found to be related to whether they are poor or not. Transfers of income (private and from government) are given particular attention as a potential means of reducing the incidence of poverty. In this regard, poor heads of household are found to be at a disadvantage compared to non-poor heads. The level of educational attainment of household heads in the village is studied and is shown to be related to their gender, as is the use of credit and sources from which credit is obtained. The study finds that government policy in Botswana is not well targeted to assisting female heads of household. On the face of it, policy seems to favour those rural heads of household that are not poor rather than the poor ones. However, it may be that government transfers enable some who could otherwise be poor to rise above the poverty line. This needs more study.


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