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01-06-2015 | Issue 2/2015

Urban Forum 2/2015

Ingrained Inequalities? Deconstructing Gendered Spaces in the Informal Waste Economy of Nigerian Cities

Journal:
Urban Forum > Issue 2/2015
Authors:
Thaddeus Chidi Nzeadibe, Onyanta Adama

Abstract

As the debates on the definition, scope and applicability of the terms ‘informal sector’ and, in more recent years, the ‘informal economy’ continue, there is a growing interest in the heterogeneity, dynamism and complexity of the sector. This has necessitated a focus on internal differentiation and social relations of power within the informal economy. Gender plays an important role in shaping how men and women participate in the informal economy, while systematic inequalities between women and men are known to pervade many informal livelihoods. Informal Solid Waste Management (ISWM) is a major livelihood activity for the most vulnerable urban groups including women. Using a mix of primary and secondary data sources, this study examined the pattern of gender participation in Nigerian informal waste economy. It notes that the socio-political space in the Nigerian waste economy is dominated by males, to the virtual exclusion of females. Findings indicate that gender differentials and exclusion of women usually manifests, often from primordial socio-cultural influences. Being intimately tied to sheer physicality, waste picking is often characterized by palpable competitions, tensions and conflicts. However, the paper acknowledges the determination of women to overcome the limitations imposed on them by cultural norms and the ability to carve a niche in a male-dominated activity. In a broader context, the paper interrogates ramifications of gendered spaces in the global South. It argues that unequal participation is a corollary of gendered spaces and concludes that without gender equality, the vulnerability of female informal urban-based livelihoods increases.

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