|Women in Informal Sector (Dar Es Salaam University Press, 1995, 46 p.)|
The preceding discussions are but my thoughts on the womens participation in the informal business sector; based on researches conducted in Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Moshi and Mwanga areas. The topic and these areas and others still need further researches. For example, using either evaluative or tracer methods one would like to find out how womens participation in the informal sector has been effective - for better or for worse - in the process of poverty alleviation.
Now that the financial institutions and international agencies have stretched their hands to support them, one would also like to conduct a study among the women who participate in the informal business as to what factors make some women succeed while others fail? Further, one would like to know how women spend their profits at the household level. Although my research results show that the money spent in the household budget is substantial, more information on control and management of the income is needed so as to develop a theoretical model for explaining the dynamics of the household economy especially on the decision making process and management. The household economic situation is what pushes the women to enter into the informal business, which has generally been brought about by the worldwide economic system. Academicians and policy makers may wish to study further the decision making process and its dynamics within households.
In Dar es Salaam, some women have established the upatu system, a kind of traditional money circulation system, whereby women share their income by turns. Although Tripp (1990) calls this system a kind of credit system, I disagree with that title because its working principles are based on traditional reciprocity relations and not the modern credit system. The way this system works, is that each woman in the group sets aside an agreed amount of money which they put together and then give it all to one member of the group. This cycle is repeated, for instance, after every month until every member of the group has had her turn. The more the members in a group, the more the amount of money one gets. However this will make a member in question to wait for a long time before her turn comes. But when the turn comes, this arrangement enables the individual woman to buy things she could not afford if she depended on her own income.
My experience shows that this arrangement needs further study on how it affects the household budget and womens expenditure. My findings show that it has not raised saving capacity among the women studied. There is also a need to establish the relationship among the women, especially those who are working together. Do they have a kind of network which is strong enough to bail out a member if business fails? How would this affect the business at large and the household management process?
Finally the informal sector needs to be studied as a developmental strategy among the low income social groups. We need to know more about how it relates to the wider national economy. For example, how many people have started in this sector and ended up in big business.
There are two theoretical frameworks which one could use in conducting such studies. The first states that since women are a poor social group, their participation in the informal business increases the income at the household level. It supplements their income from other sources.
The second states that womens participation in informal businesses empowers them by giving them the capacity to improve their power through the control and management of the business. It also gives them the ability to control space and time which are important aspects of social development.