Proposal: Feminist Political Economy Analyses of Work and Social Reproduction in Africa
Feminist research in Political economy has contributed to the recognition of the intersections of gender, power, and social differentiation. Feminist scholars have often used this theoretical approach to carry a feminist political economy (FPE) analysis of work with the view to assess its gaps and key steps to make it more inclusive for the most vulnerable in society. Feminist scholars have also critiqued the essentialisation of African women in gender and development discourse (Mohanty, 1988; Win, 2004; Cornwall, Harrison and Whitehead, 2007). Therefore, it has be recognised that centring intersectionality in analysing gender, class, and race together can provide a more accurate picture of postcolonial economies (Crenshaw, 1989; Pollard, McEwan and Hughes, 2011; Salem, 2018) and acknowledging ‘situated’ FPE in analysing different political economies is crucial (Haraway, 1988; Oyewumi, 1997; Nzegwu, 2006).
Work is a key theme in these analyses. Feminist scholars have also emphasized the need to address capitalist exploitation and patriarchal oppression together by developing a unitary theory (Dalla Costa, 1973; Vogel, 1983; Mies, 1986). Their work have been important for understanding the changing dynamics of work and social reproduction, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds (Al Ali, 2020; Stevano, Ali and Jamieson, 2021; Stevano et al., 2021). Against this background, Social Reproduction Theory (SRT) seeks to render visible human labour and work in its analysis (Laslett and Brenner, 1989; Bhattacharya, 2017). Therefore, feminist political economists and activists have been researching back and talking back by producing theoretical and empirical evidence to advance the agenda of recognising unpaid care work, promoting decent work, building better infrastructures of care and social policies that support inclusive and sustainable development, addressing issues of climate change and reproductive justice, and holding states accountable to their duty of care to their citizens.
This organised session is interested in using a FPE lens to critically analyse recent transformations in Work and their implications for the social reproduction of African Political Economies. The contributors provide multidisciplinary analyses on recent dynamics of work and social reproduction within and beyond African labour markets to contribute to the existing literature. The presenters hope to contribute to advancing research on the themes of the symposium, particularly on the following questions:
- Gender & Class dynamics of Work in GVCs & GPNs
- Precarity & Work
- Power & Resistance to Capitalist Domination and Colonialism through Work
- Care Work and its recognition in National Statistical Accounts through Time-Use Surveys
Presentations of the Symposium
Who cares for the unemployed? Employment-based dependency ratios and unpaid reproductive work in the South African household
The debate about who ought to care for vulnerable members of society is an ongoing one. Many countries have adopted various policy frameworks which sought to allocated the burden between households, the state, and the market. Where this burden is not explicitly carried by the state or the market, the responsibility has defaulted to the household. One way in which to measure the extent of care which takes place in a household is through the use of dependency ratios. The study of household composition and dependency ratios has often been undertaken to study the burden of care as it relates to the elderly and children. These studies have shown that women are worst affected by this care burden, as they tend to be the primary labourers of unpaid reproductive work and are also more likely than men to be living with children and the elderly. These patterns are not different in South Africa, although South Africa presents the unique challenge of having an exceptionally high unemployment rate combined with limited social security to support the unemployed. Consequently, these individuals have become the responsibility of the household, or more aptly, the responsibly of women. These circumstances have both pushed women into wage labour to support households and supplement household income and resulted in them working longer hours; given that, despite an increase in time spent on market work, they remain primarily responsible for unpaid reproductive work in the household. While a large body of literature has coalesced around activity-based dependency ratios, where dependents are defined as children and the elderly, less is known about how employment-based dependency ratios are related to women’s time-use; where dependency includes the unemployed as dependents. Using the 2010 South African time-use survey, this study will conduct additional research to investigate the extent to which unemployed household members present a care burden for women, given the large inequalities which remain in time-use.
Key words: time-use; dependency ratio; unemployed; household composition; social security; reproductive work
Precarious Employment and Socio-economic Well-Being in Ghana: A Case Study of Lived Experiences of Women Internal Migrants in Tamale.
For the past three decades, sociologists and commentators have widely debated the concept of precarious employment in the informal sector. Globalization and migration contribute to rising jobless growth rates in urban cities like Tamale in Ghana. Research by Cassiman Ann (2010) in North-Eastern Ghana and others on migration of head potters, popularly called “Kayaye” confirm the internal migratory movement of women to be seasonal and temporal. However, in recent times, such movements are permanent. While relocation reduces social capital for women internal migrants, jobless growth pushes them towards precariousness.
This research draws insights from literature and lived experiences of women internal migrants. It presents a multifaceted understanding of precariousness and feminization of precarious employment in the informal sector in Ghana and its influence on their socio-economic well-being.
The study is based on previous qualitative research approach using convenient, purposive, and snowball to recruit women in their “prime earning years” of 15-44 years (Vosko, 2016, p.26; OECD, 2020; ILO, 2020) for face-to-face, in-depth, semi-structured interviews and informal conversations. Also, phenomenology research approach was used to guide this study because not much studies has been done in the area of focus. This evidence-based research approach and method exposed the study to the complexity of social interactions and surroundings expressed in the daily lives of precariat women. Further fieldwork will be conducted in the same area.
Key words: Precarious employment, social capital, women, internal migrants, jobless growth, socio-economic well-being
Technology, Gender, and Women’s social realities in Development Interventions Targeting Coastal Fish-smokers in Ghana
In the last decade, many African societies have implemented ‘green economy’ approaches which have emphasized a less than meaningful focus on women workers and entrepreneurs. For informal women workers in countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and Kenya, NGOs and government programmes have capitalized on the increasing availability of funding for green technology within development projects. Acknowledging that technology-centric development provides a site for contesting conceptions of labour, this paper explores the need for further dialectic and theorization in the power relationships between technology, gender, and women’s informal labour in Africa’s ‘Greening Economy’.
To do this, I draw from my field research (2019-2020) around NGO intervention in Ghana’s fisheries value-chain where I explored how green technology reflects but also imports conceptions of labour that do not align with women’s gendered realities. My study used in-depth interviews and focus groups with over 35 women who process and smoke fish in Jamestown, Accra and NGO project leads involved in technology distribution in Ghanaian fishing communities. The study concluded that, in making production more ‘sustainable’, NGO technology also exacerbated the social and gendered barriers informal women workers encountered in their value chains and daily lives. The result being that many women workers refused to adopt new technology that had been distributed. Building on this, I stress an incumbent need to explore how technology-based approaches to development are nested within wider structural systems that directly shape women’s realities. This will be the purpose of the additional field research.
In considering these issues, my paper suggests Social Reproduction Theory as a method that could provide situated and meaningful insights into women’s social relationships around their labour, and in turn might encourage technological interventions to reflect rather than impose upon this. Such considerations are imperative in working towards a more cohesive and meaningful understanding of women workers multiple needs in informality and production in the Global South.
Key words: African Gender studies, Development, Technology, Social Reproduction Theory, Fisheries, Ghana
Mama Mboga Food provisioners in Kenya
Women’s responses to food provisioning in urban spaces in Kenya raise important questions for feminist political economy of work in Africa. Through a study of Mama Mboga, African retailers specialising in the sale of fresh fruit and vegetables in the city, this article deploys an African feminist lens to unpack the ways in which African women (Mama Mboga) are using food provisioning to challenge the patriarchal nature of society that often serves as a barrier to their potential.
This research stems from fieldwork conducted in Nairobi Kenya in 2017. The qualitative study relied on the insights and experiences of eighty-seven participants operating in urban food markets in Nairobi. The research employed a participatory and ethnographic inspired approach building a rapport with Mama Mboga who felt safe to “explain, show, discuss and analyse, plan, present, and share their knowledge and experience” (Mkabela 2005). This method permitted an understanding of how Mama Mboga operate and negotiate their existence in the marketplace of food.
The study identified the Mama Mboga’s as the key food provisioners in Nairobi, actively challenging the colonial construct of the urban marketplace of food, a space in which the economic activities of African trade is not welcomed. The urban market for Mama Mboga traders embodies the promotion, maintenance, and reproduction of gender subordination and social reproduction of women’s work in new and continuous forms, excluding women’s participation and propel a conceptualisation of women’s work as less commercial and economically productive. Mama Mboga embody the multiple identities that make an African woman, challenging the marketplace rebranding themselves as commercially viable retailers operating on the margins of the urban retail marketplace.
Key words: Food systems, urban retail, women, social reproduction, Kenya, resistance
Women’s Work and Land Reform in Zimbabwe: A Social Reproductive Perspective.
While the future of work in Africa is increasingly becoming an important area of research, a feminist political economy holds potential to illuminate the gendered nature of agricultural work within global agricultural value chains. Time-use surveys, designed with a social reproduction lens, gathered data regarding women’s time allocations for unpaid reproductive work, leisure and paid productive work within a context of land reform.
The study comprised three sites located in a remote district, 432 kilometres southeast of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. Site 1 is well integrated into high value global commodity chains comprising a former sugar estate wholly acquired by government and sub-divided into a block of A2 medium-scale sugarcane plots subsequently redistributed to female and male beneficiaries under a private grower scheme. Site 2, a former game reserve comprises an export oriented small-scale A1 farming area engaged in chilli production under contract farming. A counterfactual communal site was integrated into the sample. Time-use data were complemented with in-depth and focus group discussions with participants drawn from participating female and male-headed households.
Preliminary findings indicate that whilst access to bigger pieces of land and integration into high value global commodity chains enhanced economic gains from women’s work, a social reproductive lens reveals the often undiscounted gendered, class and racialised cost emanating from state absence in shaping women’s experiences of the ‘everyday.’ The ability of high-income A2 female sugarcane farmers to switch their care burden to other women through paid helps is a luxury which lower A1 peasant women are not able to do. l argue that whilst liberating, land reform of its own, does not necessarily improve the care burden of women. Often missing are conscious efforts to address the care burden inequality to ensure that the latter does not become a hidden discount on women’s agricultural incomes.
Key words: Women’s work, land reform, social reproduction, Zimbabwe, agricultural value chains
Fragmented Classes of Labour in Horticultural Value Chains in Senegal
Horticulture is one of Senegal’s three most promising export sectors with potential for future growth alongside tourism and the service sector (English 2016). The flourishing of this sector in Senegal is interesting in many regards. Firstly, the post-1980 rise of high value-crops (including Fresh-fruits and vegetables) which put an end to the “golden age” of large-scale estates farming pre-1960 is a common feature to most African economies (Baglioni and Gibbon 2015: 1563-1569). After 1970 in Senegal, the Niayes region saw a boom in market-gardening and export horticulture led by local capitalists owning estates with timid investments from domestic and foreign capitalist investors (Mackintosh, 1989; Fall & Fall, 2001; Baglioni, 2015). At the same moment, the River Valley Region (Northern Senegal) which received significantly more public investments in agricultural infrastructures than the rest of the country failed produce the desired outcome in terms of producing enough rice (one of the most-consumed food staple) for national food self-sufficiency. In this context, the late, yet spectacular rise of the export Fresh-Foods and Vegetables sector in the Senegalese River Valley Region after-1990, was an interesting development.
This article seeks to go beyond analysing the governance of land deals and the role of the state(Wolford et al., 2013; Kaag & Zoomers, 2014), and processes of acquisitions and political reactions (Prause, 2019; Benegiamo, 2020) to zoom in on labour relations following land deals. In fact, several studies on the ‘land rush’ or ‘large scale land investments’ literature have focused on the centrality of labour (Li, 2011; Oya, 2013; Hall et al., 2015). While there is still a focus on the lower than expected creation of permanent and highly skilled jobs, this article seeks to understand which dynamics of labour mobilisation and control takes place in horticultural production networks.
The evidence presented in this article is based on two rounds of fieldwork (three months each) using a multi-site comparison based on mixed research methods at two fresh fruits and vegetable export firms in the Lake de Guiers, and the Delta of the Senegal River in Saint-Louis. Further fieldwork will be conducted in the same area. Using a materialist feminist approach and intersectionality, I argue that export horticulture investors rely more and more on extra-firm networks of caring labour for capitalist social reproduction.
Key words: Global Value Chains, Feminist Political Economy, Social Differentiation, Social Reproduction Labour, Capitalism, Senegal