Fighting Poverty from the Street: Perspectives of Some Female Informal Sector Workers on Gendered Poverty and Livelihood Portfolios in Southern Ghana
Over the last three decades or so, complex factors including the implementation of neoliberal economic reforms has led to a decline in formal sector employment in the Ghanaian economy. This together with increasing feminization of poverty has driven many, especially young women, to seek livelihoods in the informal sector mainly as hawkers and head porters. Drawing on qualitative interviews with approximately 40 urban poor women (aged 6-25 years), this paper reports the gendered aspects of poverty and the surviving strategies of young women on urban streets. The cameos presented herein highlight the experiences of poverty among street workers and how their livelihood portfolios contribute to overcoming the poor socio-economic conditions facing them. The paper shows that hawking and head portering significantly provides income for upkeep of young women and their families through meeting consumption and other needs. However, vulnerabilities manifested in unfavourable weather conditions, vehicular dangers, exploitation from employers and customers often due to lack of written work contracts are the major risks sturdily connected with these surviving strategies. The paper concludes by arguing for policy interventions such as subsidized credit schemes and organization of formal and informal forms of capacity building for the urban street workers to enhance their livelihoods.
International Burch University