Social exclusion in women traders associations in Kampala, Uganda.
N'guessan, Fabienne Kombo.
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This study was prompted by the lack of information on women traders associations in the African context. Women’s participation in the informal economy is increasing due to factors such as high unemployment rate, women’s lower education level compared to men and, the flexibility of entry and exit in the informal sector compared to the formal sector. In general, informal workers do not hold any formal contract determining minimum wage, employment benefits or social protection. Women continue to face very high barriers to have access to education and training because of the on going gender biases in many societies. Traders associations could hold the potential to relieve women traders from their daily burdens in public markets. This study uses the theory of social exclusion to examine different barriers women face in the market, and the role of traders associations hold in their inclusion. The nature of the informal sector makes it difficult for traders associations to organise and provide services to their women members. Poorer women within traders associations have serious challenges in trying to be more assertive in their local communities and markets. Gender, class, kinship and ethnicity could all combine to account for their low status in their communities. Women’s integration within trade organisations depends largely on the negotiation of their terms of inclusion. Unfair terms of inclusion can potentially lead and continue unequal power relations as well as wealth inequality among traders. Qualitative methods were used in this study of women traders in St Balikuddembe market, Kampala, Uganda. Over a period of six weeks, 25 days were spent in the market carefully observing women at work, and then conducting 20 individual interviews and two focus group discussions. The role which traders associations play in women’s lives, the influence they hold in the association and the procedure of integration in the market were examined. The study revealed that the size of the main traders association for women determines the level of exclusion and its implication in its women members lives. Although OWA could be defined as an MBO, there is in fact a gap in their organisational structures in order to help women integrate better the market. It is in fact too large to be able to reach members, and is not accountable to them. The effect of social exclusion was identified in the gender, class and age of the women. Women traders of St Balikuddembe market, in trying to achieve inclusion, form smaller self- help groups in addition to the large one. Both kinds of association play very different roles and perform different functions which are equally important in the lives of the women traders.