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Women's Markets? Men's Markets? The Exchange Arenas of Women and Men in the Oromiya Region in Western Shewa in Ethiopia: Contribution to the 11th Annual Aage Sorensen Memorial Conference, Nuffield College, Oxford, April
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology. Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology. Economic sociology. (Assets or capital)
2007 (English)Conference paper (Other (popular science, discussion, etc.))
Abstract [en]

The link between trade and development has been widely established (United Nations development Programme 2005) and trade is increasingly proposed as a strategy to generate development (World Bank 2006; World Trade Organization 2006). Yet there is conflicting evidence whether poor farmers living in rural areas in poor developing countries really benefit from trade or not (Bardhan 2006). Indeed, there is evidence that trade liberalization has benefited those who are better off while the overall impact on the poor has been negative (UNIFEM 2000). This suggests that rural women, who constitute the majority of poor small-scale farmers, may have benefited the least from trade.

In my PhD thesis I depart from a view that the respective roles and responsibilities of women and men in rural households determine their access to rural resources, to be understood broadly (Carney 1998) to comprise also social (Bourdieu 1986) and natural resources. This distribution of roles and resources is embedded in social norms that, in addition, make it difficult for women to exit poverty. As there is evidence that women and men trade different items (Boserup 1970; International Fund for Agricultural Development 2002) this paper aims to describe the different markets that women and men use for the sale of their products and to analyze how these differ between women and men in terms of values and functions, and whether women and men have different barriers to their trade.

To perform the analysis, I use empirical data from two surveys undertaken during March-May 2006 in Western Shewa in Ethiopia, a country that relies on agriculture for the mainstay of its economic structure and employs the majority of the population. One village survey was undertaken addressing a probability sample of farmers in four villages (n=464) and one market survey using quota sampling was undertaken in three market places of differing sizes: one village market, one ’bigger’ market, and the regional market (n=142). The units of analyses are the categories of “women” and “men” but I take an intersectional perspective (Lykke 2003) as well, analyzing variations between women who head their own households and women in households headed by men. To broaden and deepen the analysis, qualitative data gathered over the period 1996-2006 has been used as well using interviews with key informants, less formal discussions and observations. The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software version 14.0 is used to perform the analyses, using primarily descriptive statistics.

Preliminary, the paper confirms that there are “women’s markets” and “men’s markets.” However - with the exception of women’s exclusive involvement in, and maintenance of, village markets close to their homes - there were no strict boundaries between women and men’s presence in the market places. Indeed, women visited the same market places just as frequently, if not more so, than men did. While no de jure barriers were found to exist on women’s trade, nevertheless local practices, such as limitations on women’s mobility and their time poverty, may restrain women’s access particularly to the valuable segments of local markets. There was however a striking division along the lines of gender within the markets, making women responsible primarily for trading items aimed at sustaining household food security in the informal segments of the market place, while men exchanged the bigger and more valuable investment items in the more formal and regulated areas of the market places. This calls for an observation with potential importance to the field of economic sociology, that while men trade locally relevant forms of capital, such as cattle and the big produce coming out of the land that they own, women trade only some of the returns to that capital, such as milk and small amounts of grain or vegetables.

In addition, the paper shows that there strict patterns of homosociality prevail within the market places, confirming that major transactions in markets take place primarily among men, and women are related to this economy and society through men, underlining men’s connection to the formal economy and women’s to the more informal. However, in concluding, the paper also shows that the practice of trading is not only about capitalization on existing resources and complementing the basket of household foods, but that the market places perform multiple, and strategic, social functions to rural women and men. Indeed, the time-component involved between selling and buying provides an important opportunity to go around and look and dream for new goods, strengthen social network ties, visit the local clinic, lookout for a future spouse, or make phone calls. In this way, nevertheless, the local markets can perform a strategic function to particularly women, representing spheres outside the domestic realm where the conventions regarding their roles and responsibilities can be negotiated and possibly redefined.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2007. 31- p.
Keyword [en]
Gender, markets, development
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-21454OAI: diva2:187981
Available from: 2007-12-10 Created: 2007-12-10Bibliographically approved

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