Dignity and Daily Bread: New Forms of Economic Organising among Poor Women in the Third World and the First

By Sheila Rowbotham; Swasti Mitter | Go to book overview

Chapter 6

Deindustrialisation and the growth of women's economic associations and networks in urban Tanzania

Aili Mari Tripp


ABSTRACT

The austerity measures which have brought Latin American women to act over prices in their communities and driven even desperate low-paid sweatshop workers to unionise have also severely affected urban African women. Women in Tanzania have beenforming their own economic links and networks in an effort to create some means of livelihood amidst inflation and economic crisis. Their new role as important contributors to the urban household income has had an impact on gender relations and marks a shift away from the state to private resources and solutions to making a living.

Aili Mari Tripp has studied the Tanzanian economy and society extensively and was assisted by Salome Mjema in her research. She looks at both voluntary associations and a variety of economic and social networks which include rotating credit groups, dance groups, childcare networks, meetings at the hairdressers and the market. Organisation embedded in everyday life enables women to withstand crisis in the public sphere. They also reveal needs and priorities of women neglected in top-down state policies. The question raised by this study is: what aspects of these survival networks might form the basis for a viable and democratic development?

In many developing countries, one of the consequences of the world recession that started in the late 1970s and the economic restructuring programmes that followed has been an expansion of local women's organisations to cope with the new hardships they face as a result of the imposition of various austerity measures. 1 From the neighbourhood committees and communal kitchens of Peru, to the mothers' clubs of Brazil, and the 1985 demonstrations of women in Sudan against rising prices, women have been active in responding to the new pressures they face. Similarly in urban Tanzania, women's economic associations and networks increased in number and expanded in size in the 1980s as more women became involved in income-generating activities. Tanzania, like many African countries, was severely affected in the late 1970s by pressures from the world economy and drops in export commodity prices, which contributed to a dramatic

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