Trade And The Feminization Of Poverty
Jacqueline, Ogega Moturi
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This study describes the negative impact of trade liberalization on the poor, particularly poor female traders, exacerbating gender inequalities in the trade arena. The main concern in this study was to analyze and document the extent to which trade perpetuates gender inequalities and exacerbates the feminization of poverty. The promotion of free trade aimed at the maximization of profits and survival for the fittest squeezes out small traders, particularly women, who engage in pitiable trade activities for survival and jeopardizes their livelihoods and well-being. Qualitative data were collected through in-depth interviews with a purposive sample of informants as well as key informants who included business people and analysts, gender experts and advertisers. On the other hand, quantitative data were obtained by a questionnaire administered to one hundred traders in sampled market centres. Respondents included female and male traders, local administrators, leaders, members of self-help groups that promoted entrepreneurship, workers in marketing societies, fmance institutions and export / import firms / farms, streethawkers, market women at local open markets like 'Gikomba', and middlemen. Library research was also used to collect data. Findings indicate that although trade liberalization has been one of the engines of growth in Kenya's economy, women have not been able to seize the opportunities that trade liberalization may offer. Female traders can barely cope with the stresses wrought by a liberalized market in which they lack market, resources and the means to enhance their capabilities and capacities in trade. Trade liberalization focuses on large private enterprises and since female traders are concentrated in small-scale 11 home-based or house-based informal trade, women's trading activities remam invisible and are not considered as part of global trade. The findings also suggest that with trade liberalization, gender inequalities persist in access to and control of productive human, social, and capital assets necessary for one to be economically efficient and trade effectively. Women receive poverty and starvation wages, much lower than their male counterparts and are barely involved in decision-making in matters relating to trade and industry as well as claiming their economic rights through campaigns on fair and free trade. Women also suffer gender-based obstacles in the trade arena that make it difficult to undertake trading activities with the same ease and footing like their male counterparts. Based on the study findings, it is recommended that trade liberation be made to be pro poor and pro women. The major touchstone for trade Iiberalization and development must be to constantly question ways in which free trade affects the poor, particularly poor women, and contributes to poverty reduction. Trade liberalization must also be informed and guided by the Millennium Development Goals, particularly those aimed at gender equality and reduction of the number of people living in absolute and chronic poverty.