African Market Women and Economic Power: The Role of Women in African Economic Development

African Market Women and Economic Power: The Role of Women in African Economic Development

African Market Women and Economic Power: The Role of Women in African Economic Development

African Market Women and Economic Power: The Role of Women in African Economic Development

Synopsis

An interdisciplinary study of market women from all parts of Africa shows how, from historical times to the present, African women have used the economic power they have derived from market activities and commercial enterprises to improve their social and political status in a man's world. They used their wealth in pre-colonial times to obtain titles and even chieftainship. Because of their involvement in trade, many women acquired considerable property, especially real estate. The authors stress the positive aspect of women's economic activities, but also point out the prevalent sexual division of labor in Africa as a limiting factor. They illustrate the concomitant struggle between men and women over certain market items traditionally associated with one or the other sex. They analyze the cultural, social, and economic barriers that restrict female involvement in some economic activities. Nevertheless, the overwhelming conclusion by all of the writers, who are Africans and Americans, is that women play a major role in the economic sector of all the regions of the continent.

Excerpt

The study of African women as an important focus of academic inquiry can be traced back to the decade of the 1960s, even though studies of African women go back to the colonial period. Since the 1970s, however, scholarly literature on women has grown with increasing rapidity, thanks to Africanist feminist scholars. Although the literature on the contributions of women in the economic development of subSaharan African states is abundant and still growing, few, if any, studies have attempted a regional and comparative analysis of African market women traders. Hitherto, attention had focused largely on the successful penetration of West African women in local markets, while very little attention has been given to women in East, Central, or Southern Africa. This book attempts to correct this apparent neglect by examining the economic role of women from a comparative perspective. Thus, the essays in this volume focus attention on the economic activities of women from Western, Eastern, Central, and Southern Africa in the precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial eras.

The ten chapters of this book deal with the theme of African market women and economic power. African market women's participation in trade is analyzed in terms of (1) the sexual division of labor in African societies; (2) the struggle and competition between men and women over certain market items and market centers; (3) the nature of resources available to them and the manner in which these resources are disbursed; (4) the cultural, social, and economic barriers that still exist and have, in one way or another, affected women's ability to participate fully in economic development; (5) the method by which African women exploit or . . .

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