Proposal preview

African Women at Work in Historical Perspective: New Methods for the study of Female Inequality in Economic Participation, 1800-2000

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, has long-term historical analysis been conducted with data preceding the 1960s and 1980s and have the historical roots of African gender inequality been fully discussed and acknowledged. 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.
In order to fully assess women’s participation in the economy of the continent and their significant contributions at local, regional and national level, it is essential to adopt a broader definition of labour and a new methodology that will encompassed both formal and informal labour markets, and the forms of labour aforementioned. By defining labour as “any human effort adding use value to goods and services. […]” (Tilly and Tilly, 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 across time and space at a global scale, the contributions in this set of panels will demonstrate how the study of African women’s labour and their labour relations can be key indicators to assess women’s contribution to the economy and also to help scholars to identify what are the historical roots of women’s inequality in terms of economic participation in the economies of different regions and countries, including Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, among others.

Organizer(s)

  • Filipa Ribeiro da Silva International Institute of Social History (The Netherlands) filipa.ribeirodasilva@iisg.nl
  • Karin Pallaver University of Bologna (Italy) karin.pallaver@unibo.it

Session members

  • Karin Hofmeester, International Institute of Social History (The Netherlands)
  • Jan Lucassen, International Institute of Social History (The Netherlands)
  • Karin Pallaver, University of Bologna (Italy)
  • Rory Pilossof, University of Free State (South Africa)
  • Marlous Van Waijenburg , University of Michigan (USA)
  • Filipa Ribeiro da Silva, International Institute of Social History (The Netherlands)
  • Felix Meier Zu Selhausen, University of Sussex (United Kingdom)
  • Michiel De Haas, Wageningen University (The Netherlands)
  • Dieter Von Fintel, Stellenbosch University (South Africa)
  • Anja Smith, Stellenbosch University (South Africa)
  • Ada Jansen, Stellenbosch University (South Africa)
  • Sophia Du Plessis, Stellenbosch University (South Africa)

Discussant(s)

  • Gareth Austin University of Cambridge (United Kingdom) gma31@cam.ac.uk

Papers

Panel abstract

In order to fully assess women’s participation in the economy of the African continent and their significant contributions at a local, national and regional levels, it is essential to adopt a broader definition of labour and a new methodology that will encompassed both formal and informal labour markets, and various forms of labour. By defining labour as “any human effort adding use value to goods and services. […]” (Tilly and Tilly, 1984), and applying new methodologies and the Taxonomy of Labour Relations recently 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, the contributions in this panel will demonstrate how to assess women’s contribution to the economy in historical perspective.

1st half

The Global Collaboratory on the History of Labour Relations and Women’s Labour and Labour Relations in sub-Saharan Africa: an Introduction

Karin Hofmeester, Jan Lucassen

In our presentation we will first briefly sketch the methodological background of the Global Collabora-tory 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.

In our presentation we will first briefly sketch the methodological background of the Global Collabora-tory 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.

Shifts and Continuities in Female Labour Relations in Kenya and Tanzania, 1800-1960

Karin Pallaver

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 rela- tions in connection to major historical processes, such as the development of long-distance caravan trade or the establishment of the colonial economy.

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 rela- tions in connection to major historical processes, such as the development of long-distance caravan trade or the establishment of the colonial economy.

Changes and continuities of women’s labour and labour relations in Uganda, 1900-2000

Felix Meier zu Selhausen, Michael de Haas

This paper traces the long-term evolution of women’s and men’s relative labour and labour relations in 20th century Uganda. Using marriage registers and local surveys, this paper explores how women’s type of labour, forms of employment and their labour relations have changed over time, and studies the fac- tors that triggered those changes. Although forms of social stratification were present in Uganda be- fore colonialism within, to various degrees in the various central state systems in Uganda, the onset of colonial rule in combination with an unprecedented African reception of mission education and cash cropping accelerated the division of the population into classes in the first half of the 20th century. With the introduction of a new class society, the position of women, relative to men, deteriorated and become more unequal. Pre-colonial social norms in Uganda discriminated against women’s labour out- side the domestic sphere. The interaction with the values...

This paper traces the long-term evolution of women’s and men’s relative labour and labour relations in 20th century Uganda. Using marriage registers and local surveys, this paper explores how women’s type of labour, forms of employment and their labour relations have changed over time, and studies the fac- tors that triggered those changes. Although forms of social stratification were present in Uganda be- fore colonialism within, to various degrees in the various central state systems in Uganda, the onset of colonial rule in combination with an unprecedented African reception of mission education and cash cropping accelerated the division of the population into classes in the first half of the 20th century. With the introduction of a new class society, the position of women, relative to men, deteriorated and become more unequal. Pre-colonial social norms in Uganda discriminated against women’s labour out- side the domestic sphere. The interaction with the values of the missionary churches that produced a new system of institutionalized gender inequality on Uganda’s labour markets. Christian missionary ed- ucation played an ambiguous role: providing important niches for women’s labour in schools and hos- pitals but at the same time propagating ideals of the ‘good Christian homemaker’ model. Women’s labour became increasingly observed in clerical position in urban areas in the late colonial era and since post-independence women’s formal labour opportunities have been converging to those of men. Nevertheless, a large gender gap on Uganda’s labour market remains today.

Women and Work in Zimbabwe, c. 1800-2000

Rory Pilossof

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 pre- formed 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...

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 pre- formed 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.

2nd half

Women’s Labour Relations in Mozambique, 1800-2000

Filipa Ribeiro da Silva

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...

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/).

Financing the African colonial state: female (labor) tax burdens (c. 1880-1940)

Marlous van Waijenburg

To be uploaded

To be uploaded

Maternal mortality before midwifery on the Cape frontier

Dieter von Fintel, Anja Smith, Ada Jansen, Sophia du Plessis

Using 18th century tax records and mortality records, we look at the incidence of maternal death among the settler population in the Cape Colony in southern Africa. Interestingly, we find a negative socio-economic gradient in maternal mortality, which is contrary to the common findings in the modern literature. This phenomenon is particularly attributable to the French Huguenot sub-population, which was a migrant community that came to South Africa following religious persecution in late 17th century Europe. Existing research shows that they preserved their wine-making skills within their closed network long after integration into the Cape Dutch community, and attained high levels of wealth as a result. Maternal mortality therefore did not result from the exclusion of poorer households from the healthcare system. However, the relatively closed network of the French also meant that mothers were isolated from experienced Dutch midwives and faced greater risks of death during or shortly after...

Using 18th century tax records and mortality records, we look at the incidence of maternal death among the settler population in the Cape Colony in southern Africa. Interestingly, we find a negative socio-economic gradient in maternal mortality, which is contrary to the common findings in the modern literature. This phenomenon is particularly attributable to the French Huguenot sub-population, which was a migrant community that came to South Africa following religious persecution in late 17th century Europe. Existing research shows that they preserved their wine-making skills within their closed network long after integration into the Cape Dutch community, and attained high levels of wealth as a result. Maternal mortality therefore did not result from the exclusion of poorer households from the healthcare system. However, the relatively closed network of the French also meant that mothers were isolated from experienced Dutch midwives and faced greater risks of death during or shortly after childbirth; furthermore, this group was isolated from the urban centre of Cape Town, reducing their access to formal healthcare. Our main hypothesis is that in a period when medical care was supply-constrained in an early settler society (with most doctors unsuitably qualified and with no evidence that they attended to child births), maternal health did not improve with wealth or a fresh pool of positively “selected” migrants; to the contrary, integration into informal healthcare networks (both ethnically and geographically) increased survival rates of women during childbirth. Our results are quantitative, but data limitations entail that we rely on strong support from qualitative archival sources to make sense of the relationships we establish.