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Structural adjustment programmes and the informal sector : the Nigerian case of Jos women Nnazor, Agatha Ifeyinwa


This study describes and analyzes the impact of Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) on the Jos women in the informal sector, as well as the strategies women adopt to ensure the survival of their businesses and families. Studies that have investigated the impact of SAP on women in the informal sector tend to take a rather disparate approach. Against this background, the present study develops a coherent conceptual framework for understanding the impact of SAPs on women in the sector. From an interview survey conducted with one hundred and fifty (150) Jos women in the informal urban sector, the study elicited data on the activities of the women and the ways SAPs affect their access to productive and reproductive resources, as well as on the responses of the women to SAPs-engendered socio-economic hardships. The data reveal that the Jos women engage in numerous income-generating activities, mostly in small-scale, low-income circulatory and service activities which are largely marginalized and bereft of institutionalized resources. In addition to their productive and income-generating activities, the Jos women perform the bulk of the reproductive and domestic work necessary for the support of the family. As well, the women perform some extra-household work for the welfare of the community and environment. The study shows that the Jos women are adversely affected by SAPs. Structural Adjustment Programmes are further limiting their access to business commodities, credit, stalls, information and training, food, healthcare, education and transportation facilities. Consequently, women are finding it difficult to maintain their businesses and families. Amidst the adverse effects of SAPs, the women are resiliently and innovatively responding to SAPs through numerous business and familial survival strategies. In addition to the responses of the Jos women, the Nigerian State, is attempting to reduce poverty among women through its various women-centered programmes. The study attributes the adverse and limiting effects of SAPs on the Jos women's access to resources to a number of forces. These include (a) the Nigerian limited and discriminatory opportunity structures which predispose women to the largely marginalized informal activities, (b) the small-scale and low-income nature of women's informal activities, (c) the unequal and exploitative relationship between the informal and formal sectors in which women provide consumer goods at low-cost for the regeneration of capitalist labour, (d) the circulatory and service nature of women's informal activities, (e) the gender- and class-biased structures inherent in SAPs, as well as in SAPs' implementing mechanisms and institutions and (f) women's altruistic and selfless attitudes. The study observes that the responses of both the Jos women and the Nigerian State to SAPs-engendered hardships are, at best, palliative or even cosmetic. The responses do not address the strategic needs of women. Hence the study makes a case for a transformatory strategy through the empowerment of women.

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