Gender Roles in Economics

Men's work includes clearing fields and other agricultural work, herding livestock, and building houses, granaries, and stock shelters. Abaluyia women (like many African women) work much harder and longer hours than men. They are the primary producers of both subsistence and cash crops, though they do not always control the products of their labor. Reproduction—the bearing and raising of children—and household maintenance activities are almost exclusively women's work. Women are also the major caregivers for sick, elderly, and disabled family members.

In the first half of the 20th century, missionary training in domesticity, including cleanliness, crop cultivation, and self-reliance, was aimed at "mission girls" and enabled a few educated women to fashion— with difficulty—new roles for themselves. Today in Buluyia some women are employed, mostly as nurses and teachers; some make and sell pots or other utilitarian items or practice indigenous healing arts or modern midwifery. Many men are labor migrants, thus withdrawing from the domestic economy for months or years, and then retiring in their forties or fifties to resume farming. Even if present in the homestead, few men will do women's work. Children's contributions to the family economy— mostly doing women's work—are substantially reduced by their school attendance. Women, expected to feed and clothe their families and provide school fees if the father fails in that duty, have little choice but to take up the work roles forgone by men and children, even if it means doing men's work. These factors, along with educational disadvantages and persisting patterns of patriarchal oppression (indigenous and colonial), have severely limited African women's roles in the formal economy, leading to heavy participation in the informal economy, especially as agricultural laborers and micro-entrepreneurs, and to a degree in craft production and ritual specialties.

Women are further disadvantaged by changes in land tenure from the precolonial communal control of land to the contemporary situation of individualized land tenure, with most land registered to men who inherited it from their fathers and will divide it among their sons. Women may "inherit" skills such as divining, but rarely inherit land or other material property. Lack of a land title deed makes it almost impossible for women to obtain loans to start income-generating projects. The many women managing farms in their husbands' absence, or because they are widowed, are less well served by agricultural extension services than are men who manage farms. Many Abaluyia women live on the edge, working long and hard under conditions of gender bias that severely limit their economic opportunities and threaten their health and the health and educational opportunities of their children.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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