Middle Eastern Women and the Invisible Economy

By Richard A. Lobban | Go to book overview

II
Women and Work: The Invisible Economy of Egypt

The unusual tale of the informal health practitioners in Alexandria by medical anthropologist Marcia Inhorn carries the study of the "invisible" economy to new domains. These women venture into an area conceptualized as an exclusively formal-sector profession. Inhorn reveals how the invisible economy is highly creative in accommodating modern needs within traditional society.

Evelyn Early offers rich detail in four biographies of crafty women entrepreneurs from Cairo. These female "wheelers and dealers" operate with limited capital resources but nevertheless achieve remarkable success and independence of action.

The contribution by Barbara Larson focuses on the rural side, studying women from Beni Suef in Upper Egypt. She finds that they are highly connected to both urban markets and weekly rural markets as domains of their commercial activities. They are engaged in a great diversity of pursuits, including crafts production, agriculture, sewing, and poultry sales.

Marie Butler gives detailed data and analysis of development assistance to home-based microenterprises in Kalyubia in the Egyptian Delta. They build on traditional strengths of the roles of women in small-scale farming and show how chicken and egg batteries can be very successful indeed. Butler's probing analysis of policy and practice extends the focus of this section on Egyptian women in the informal economy.

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