Economic Empowerment and Livelihood
Engendering South African Township Economies: An African Feminist Perspective on the Role, Position and Experiences of Women in Informal Trade
Capitalism has almost completely redefined how we understand ‘work’ and how we look at ourselves in relation to work. (Baatjes, n.d). The workplace today is characterised by insecure forms of work made up of a range of contractual relations such as temporary work, labour broking system, and employment agencies engaged in outsourcing of labour. This changing nature of ‘traditional’ work place disproportionately affects women in Africa (and other developing economies). The high concentration of women in low-paid jobs, with limited access to job security and benefits, has contributed to the increasing 'feminisation of poverty'. Indeed, capitalism creates deep gendered and racialised effects for African women. As secure employment becomes scarce more women in the continent are increasingly turning to the informal economy, a sector predominately occupied by women. This paper redefines other forms of ‘work’ outside the formal work. Insight into small scale trade is critical as it holds fundamental social and economic development implications (Bridges Africa, 2018). In this paper, the author examines cooperative economies and other forms of township economies as an emerging alternative means of employment and livelihood for Southern African women -this, at a time when governments are increasingly failing to address the welfare and economic needs of marginalised people, particularly women. The author explores the concept of cooperatives, ‘stokvels’ or ‘saving clubs’ as critical agencies through which women, particularly marginalised women organise themselves. The paper argues that cooperatives are a space where actors organise themselves and critically engage oppressive socio -political and economic policies.
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