African women at work during the rise and fall of colonial rule in Sub-Saharan Africa, 1800-2000

New research methods


Date: 1 September 2017, 09:00–03:30

Venue: Corvinus University, Fővám tér 8, room 322

 

Please note that there is a break from 12 pm - 1.30 pm.

Abstract

Following the 4th World Conference on Women and the establishment of the Beijing Platform for Action for Equality, Development and Peace (1990s), and the publication of the World Bank Group Gender Action Plan (2007-2010) arguing that “Gender equality [w]as smart economics” and women’s participation in the economy contributed to economic expansion and had long-term effects on future generations, a growing body of literature has been published on the study of modern form of gender inequality focusing in particular in developing and undeveloped regions, being sub-Saharan Africa a case in point.

Rarely, however, have the historical roots of African gender inequality been fully discussed and acknowledged on the basis of long-term historical analysis using data preceding the 1960s and 1980s and. More importantly, scholars studying women’s economic participation in contemporary sub-Saharan Africa have focused mainly on their participation in formal labour markets (i.e. wage gap, economic sectors), leaving female contribution to the informal labour market, to the agricultural sector under the form of subsistence agriculture as well as their reproductive labour unaccounted for.

The papers in this double-session will assess the main transformations in African women’s labour and labour relations in historical perspective, highlighting the main shifts and continuities resulting from political changes, economic transformations and social shifts in the transition from the pre-colonial, to the colonial and post-colonial periods. The speakers will assess women’s participation in the economy several countries of sub-Saharan Africa between 1800 and 2000taking as reference the broad definition of labour by Tilly and Tilly (“any human effort adding use value to goods and services. […]” (1984) and applying a new methodology and the Taxonomy of Labour Relations developed at the International Institute of Social History for the study of shifts in labour and labour relations at a global scale. This will allow us to draw a more encompassing picture of female labour in Africa including forms of formal and informal, paid and unpaid, free and unfree, and reproductive and productive labour.

Convenors

Filipa Ribeiro da Silva (International Institute of Social History Amsterdam) 

Karin Pallaver (University of Bologna)

Chair

Stefano Bellucci (Leiden University / Internationale Institute of Social History Amsterdam)

Commentator

Gareth Austin (University of Cambridge)

Panelists

Karin Hofmeester (International Institute of Social History Amsterdam)

Jan Lucassen (International Institute of Social History Amsterdam)   

Karin Pallaver (University of Bologna)

Rory Pilossof (University of Free State Bloemfontein)

Filipa Ribeiro da Silva (International Institute of Social History Amsterdam)

Valentina Fusari (University of Pavia)

 

Papers

Karin Hofmeester / Jan Lucassen: The global collaboratory on the history of labour relations and women’s labour and labour relations  in Sub-Saharan Africa: An introduction

In our presentation we will first briefly sketch the methodological background of the Global Collaboratory on the History of Labour Relations. We will introduce  the definition of work and labour relations it uses and how this makes the project perceptive for all types of work, including the work performed by women that is often overlooked in statistics.  Secondly, the most significant results of the project so far will be presented, placing the findings on sub-Saharan Africa – with a focus on women’s labour and labour relations - in a broader, more global perspective.

Karin Pallaver: Shifts and continuities in female labour relations in Kenya and Tanzania, 1800-1960

This paper combines quantitative and qualitative evidence in order to provide a long-term analysis of the major shifts in the history of female labour relations in Kenya and Tanzania from the late precolonial period to the end of colonial rule. The first part of the paper focuses on the nature and quality of the available sources on demography and female labour relations for the two countries. Problems and limits of the sources will be presented along with methodological issues connected to their use. The second part of the paper is devoted to the analysis of the shifts and continuities in female labour relations in connection to major historical processes, such as the development of long-distance caravan trade or the establishment of the colonial economy.

Rory Pilossof: Women and work in Zimbabwe, c. 1800-2000

This paper looks the working lives of women in Zimbabwe and how these have shifted and changed over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. To do so official labour records, census and labour surveys will be used, which will be augmented with qualitative data about the labour relations women preformed outside of the formal economy. Key here will be exploring female contributions to the informal labour economy, subsistence or peasant agriculture, and their reproductive and household labour. In order to fully assess women’s participation in the economy of the region, attention will also be paid to the migrant labour system in southern Africa and how women have responded to this, participated in it, and pursued their own agency within this system. The paper will adopt wider conceptual approaches, including a broader definition of labour and using the methodology and the taxonomy of labour relations developed at the International Institute of Social History for the study of shifts in labour and labour relations across time and space at a global scale.

Filipa Ribeiro da Silva: Women’s labour relations in Mozambique, 1800-2000

In this paper, I will examine main shifts and continuities in women’s participation in the economy of Mozambique in the last two hundred years, paying special attention to the types of labour and labour relations they have been engaged. To tackle this topic, I will determine: Who were the women working and what was their proportion in the total active population? What kind of work has been done by women? In what kind of labour relations did these women appear engaged and how these have changed over time? More importantly, what were/are the factors or variables that can help us explain and understand changes in female participation in the economy? This study will rely on a combination of quantitative (i.e. censuses data, and reports from international organisations) and qualitative data (i.e. ethnographic enquiries, governmental correspondence), and will use the taxonomy of labour relations and the methods developed by the Global Collaboratory on the History of Labour Relations, 1500-2000 (https://collab.iisg.nl/web/LabourRelations/).

Valentina Fusari: Eritrean labour relations: Female, plural

Eritrean women have always been active protagonists of the national economy although rarely their impact has been recognised and esteemed. This paper would like to present a long-term (1900-2000) overview of women’s labour relations in Eritrea, applying the taxonomy of labour relations developed by the Global Collaboratory on the History of Labour Relations at the International Institute of Social History.A brief description of the sources available for population studies for the period under observation will be followed by a presentation of qualitative and quantitative data related to women’s economic participation in past and present Eritrea. In order to contextualise the analysis, the paper will pay special attention to identify what are the cultural and historical roots of women’s inequality in terms of economic participation in all nine Eritrean ethnic group and to political issues able to affect the traditional female participation. Moreover, the paper will include demographic considerations like maternal mortality, total fertility rate and violence against women to complete the overview and clarify the female distribution and composition within the Eritrean labour market.


Back to listing