Women and Finance in Sudan: A Case Study in Greater Omdurman and Khartoum

By Schultz, Ulrike; Maccawai, Asia et al. | Ahfad Journal, June 2006 | Go to article overview

Women and Finance in Sudan: A Case Study in Greater Omdurman and Khartoum


Schultz, Ulrike, Maccawai, Asia, Fatih, Tayseer_El-, Ahfad Journal


Abstract

The authors show in their study on saving habits and credit relations of women in Greater Khartoum and Omdurman that financial behaviour of women is not only influenced by market oriented forces but also by the needs of the household and the moral economy. The article investigates how Sudanese women use financial institutions they have access to in order to organise their lives between market, household, and the community. Within a gender ideology that enforces the role of the male provider and the female housekeeper, women seem to have some room of manoeuvre. Furthermore, the moral economy is still a powerful institution leading to redistribution and reciprocity. This is not only reflected in the traditional institutions of the moral economy as wajib but also in the way social relations are reshaped in the urban neighbourhoods. Furthermore, the success of Rotating Saving and Credit Associations (sandugs) reveals that the prevalence of the moral economy can also explain the functioning of "purely" financial institutions.

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1. Introduction

Up to the 1970s, the idea that women should do their productive and reproductive work at home was not challenged in most of the local cultures of Northern Sudan, especially in the cities of the Nile valley. Men used to go shopping, while women were responsible for preparing food and serving meals for their families and visitors.

However, below this level of official rules and norms, women have been economically active. Beside their reproductive work, depending on the local culture, they were working on markets, in agriculture, handicraft and trading. Furthennore, women have been part of social networks, which have been essential for the well-being of their families.

Since the 1970s women are increasingly involved in market activities and gainful employment. This is due to the rising costs of living, liberalisation policies and structural adjustment that made money essential for getting access to social infrastructure as education and health services and new educational opportunities for women. Although Sudanese women are today involved in the market economy, they are still active in the household economy and social networking.

Saving habits and credit relations of the women are therefore not only influenced by market oriented forces but also by the needs of the household and the moral economy. Therefore, financial institutions are useful in studying the interface of different economic spheres. In the following paper we will inquire how Sudanese women use the financial institutions they have access to in order to organise their lives between market, household, and the community. Furthermore, we want to analyse the engendered structure of these institutions.

The following results are based on interviews and observations done in two villages in the surroundings of Omdurman (Al Gharaza and Sanahir), displaced areas in Greater Khartoum (Ha Yusif and Umbedda) and in a lower middle-class area in Omdurman (Thawra).

2. Finance, Economic Embeddedness and Gender

In the following paper a concept of finance as defined by the Firth (1964: 29) is used. According to Firth, financial relations imply all goods and services that are exchanged "without immediate return against the promise of a future payment." Following Bouman/Hospes (1994: 3) we include the norms, actions and processes which influence, directly or indirectly, the transactions of savers, bonowers and lenders.

Therefore, our focus will be on all means of intertemporal exchange, and insurance; reciprocity and mutual aid will be analysed as much as saving accounts and saving clubs.

However, by describing institutions based on reciprocity and mutual aid as part of financial relations, we do not assume that these institutions are purely economic following the neoclassical approach, which conceptualises all acting as driven by individual utility maximising. …

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