- African Women and Globalization: Recent Research and Theoretical Perspectives
Globalization, neoliberalism, and African feminist thought establish the frameworks for these three works, which display a wealth of scholarship on the current condition of African women. Through empirical research, they enrich the data on the unequal ways women and men have experienced the impact of global economic forces on their countries. African feminists reiterate challenges to Western feminists at both the theoretical and practical level; at the same time they are mindful of the sometimes ambiguous burden that women experience in an era in which women’s rights and capacities to be autonomous are frequent goals. The third volume, which concerns recent thought on policy formulation and implementation, contains fresh data on institutional change, in particular, along with discussions of resources and mobilization that find occasional mirrors in the other two.
The purposes of the collections differ enough for each to contribute its own view of the potential and diversity of African women in the early years of the twenty-first century, as well as of the crises they face. The principal themes and the parallel and different views of the authors will constitute the [End Page 157] main body of this essay. Yet before beginning, this reviewer proposes that the global financial crisis of 2008 lends a historical flavor to the research and opinions contained in these works. Certainly capitalism is not dead and the global economic forces driving it may have only been slowed by the events of the year. Yet revelations of corruption and mismanagement, of sheer awfulness of scale, have shaken the foundations of the system. They raise the question of whether our understanding of these global processes and their consequences may yet be transformed in ways we cannot even begin to articulate.
Sylvain H. Boko, an economist, and his colleagues in Women in African Development: The Challenge of Globalization and Liberalization in the 21st Century examine the impact of globalization and structural adjustment programs on African women’s economic activities; the primary goal is to assess how these forces have shaped women’s contributions to African development. While recognizing that structural adjustment programs often had more serious and negative consequences for women than for men, the authors proceed from within a framework generally supportive of liberalization. The collection includes essays on conceptual issues related to globalization and gender inequality, the empowerment of women, and sectoral analyses—on education, on women in the labor force, and on demographic trends (relating to the aging of the population). The authors join other scholars in recommending that special education and skills training focused on women, on legal change to facilitate women’s access to land and other property, and on the promotion of political leadership positions for women will all enhance women’s capacity to participate more significantly in the economies of African countries. The authors demonstrate that it is not so much a “low level of women’s participation in economic activity” (191) that is at issue, but rather that despite Herculean participation in their countries’ economies, the benefits women reap are minimal. Until this is redressed, the authors conclude, African economies can scarcely revitalize.
If the Boko volume focuses on “development” in the neoliberal sense of economic growth, African Women and Globalization, edited by Jepkorir Rose Chepyator-Thomson, offers a critical posture toward the entire phenomenon of globalization in the cultural as well as the economic realms. This collection addresses women as agents rather than as victims in the development process. Filomina Chioma...