Gender, space and empowerment in rural Hausaland, northern Nigeria
Reducing gender inequalities by enabling women's empowerment is a major focus of the literature and practices of gender and development. The work of this thesis contributes to debates about female empowerment, especially for peasant women in peripheral capitalist economies. The central themes of enquiry are power relations of gender and space in the socio-economic processes in which peasant households and their members are embedded. The focus of investigation is the extent to which commodity exchange outside the household reinforces, or reduces, women's position of power/disempowerment. The central question taken for analysis is whether income earning via trading empowers women, thus reducing their subordination. This hypothesis is widely accepted. Many NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and other development institutions base efforts around the notion that income earning is liberating for women. This hypothesis is investigated for rural Hausa women in Northern Nigeria who are secluded within their homes by the religio-cultural practice of purdah, but who engage in trade, often through the agency of children. The major empirical part of the study develops and applies an original framework for analysis of empowerment that identifies and maps gender divisions of labour and space in the spheres of production, reproduction and circulation in which rural Hausa men and women are embedded. The overall conclusion reached is that gender divisions of work, both inside and outside rural Hausa households, and especially in trade, reflect and sustain the subordination of women and their inferior position relative to men, especially through the control of space. The notion of income earning as universally empowering for women does not hold because rural Hausa women engaged in the market are not significantly empowered by their income earning because of the complex realities of patriarchy whereby women have weak bargaining powers.