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Trading out?: A study of farming women’s and men’s access to resources in rural Ethiopia
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2008 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Women are over-represented among the rural poor in developing countries, and the difficulties they face in raising themselves out of poverty are well established. This thesis examines how gender structures trade in local markets and forms of sociability in rural Ethiopia, using survey data from four rural communities and three local market places. Over 600 male and female farmers were surveyed, and qualitative data from interviews and observations was used to interpret and analyze the results.

The thesis is in four parts: Part I introduces the research questions, and presents the theory and research methodology. The thesis posits that women’s access to resources is mediated via men, making it difficult for them to head their own households. Part II links the theoretical concepts to conditions in the field, showing how the the less valued activities are assigned to women, and develops a resource index that establishes the inequality in resource access. Part III proves that gender structures local markets and that the inequality in access to resources is reproduced in these. Yet trading offers an important livelihood for women, challenging their isolation and expanding their choices and markets are arenas in which they can exercise their agency. Part IV shows that local forms of sociability are also structured by gender and influence access to other resources. Density of social network ties and access to rural resources are strongly linked, particularly for female household heads.

The final chapter shows how the gendered structure of local markets and sociability allows men to capitalize on resources more effectively than women. But women can carve out space and authority for themselves, lead local organizations and become active traders, and are actually less embedded in communities and more embedded in markets than men. The thesis problematizes the livelihood options open to female household heads, and how they balance these between markets and communities. The thesis concludes that future attempts to strengthen local markets and institutions must acknowledge that women and men face different constraints and opportunities. Women's room for maneuver could then translate into real empowerment.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis, 2008. , 310 p.
Stockholm studies in sociology, ISSN 0491-0885 ; N.S., 34
Keyword [en]
Ethiopia, gender, economic sociology, social resources, local markets, trade, female-headed households, resource index, rural development
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-8339ISBN: 978-91-86071-04-2OAI: diva2:200123
Public defence
2008-12-17, hörsal 4, hus B, Universitetsvägen 10, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2008-11-26 Created: 2008-11-26 Last updated: 2012-10-05Bibliographically approved

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