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close this bookWomen in Informal Sector (Dar Es Salaam University Press, 1995, 46 p.)
close this folderTHE SOCIAL DIMENSION
close this folderThe Limits
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentEducation and Time
View the documentMarkets
View the documentWork Burden
View the documentSecurity and Health
View the documentFirewood Collection
View the documentOpen Space Cooking
View the documentBeer Brewing
View the documentFeminization of Poverty

Education and Time

In whatever sector, form and level it is carried out, the present day informal sector demands skills, labour power and time investment - variables which were not necessarily needed in the barter economic system which women were traditionally involved. The above statement contradicts, to some extent, with child rearing, household chores and other activities, which are traditional roles assigned to women. It also raises the expectation of women whose level of skills and education is not very high. It is wrong and unfair to expect the women to engage in the informal business activities within the framework of cash economy while at the same time they do not have adequate skills to enable them to do so. It is also unfair to expect them to put sufficient time in their businesses while the burden of other respective household chores have not been reduced through redistribution of equal roles/tasks among the members of the family unit.

These days many donor agencies include educational packages in their women’s projects. My own advice has always been that women need prior training in management skills of their prospective programmes or projects otherwise the money spent either on the projects or programmes will just be wasted. Yet there is more to be done in order to rearrange the roles at the household level so as to make them more effective in their businesses. The majority of the women are assisted by their children and not their husbands. After doing their business for the day, they are also compelled to undertake household responsibilities that fall under their respective gender roles.

In the traditional societies, there were other institutions that were specially established to ease the women’s household burden, especially that of looking after the children. Today’s women in the informal sector work with babies on their backs. This may have negative effects on the growth of the children and even add the burden to the women themselves.

Indeed, the informal business run by women with primary school going children has greatly contributed to the rising number of school drop-outs. These children spend most of their time helping their mothers. If this trend continues, it will add to the already growing numbers of illiterates in the country - although in the past Tanzania has been one of the few countries in Africa which had achieved great success in wiping out adult illiteracy.

Because of the aforementioned reasons the performance of women in the informal business is limited. Either they are not performing well, or they choose businesses which can be carried out while at home or near homes. These would more or less fall within the “5ks” syndrome I mentioned above and are within the traditional sex-based division of labour.

Another effect resulting from having little skills or education, is profit-making in the business. Although most of the women’s informal business contribute up to 50 percent of the household budget, most of them are doing badly in business for they make very little profit. They are not making sufficient money to enable them meet even their daily subsistence and then reinvest in the business. A good example comes from Sinza area in Dar es Salaam. Ntukula (1990) reports the example of a woman who borrowed Tshs.500/= from her husband in 1984 to carry out petty business in ice-cream. By 1987 at the time of the research, the capital had only reached Tshs.l000/=. She has only diversified her business to include dry fish and charcoal but she does not make profit at all in such businesses.