BRIDGE Report 8: Gender and Adjustment in Sub-Saharan Africa

Author: S. Baden
Publisher: Institute of Development Studies UK
Publication Date: Jan 1993
How can current and future economic adjustment policies more effectively incorporate gender concerns' Gender issues have begun to enter mainstream debates about the impact of structural adjustment. However, while case studies suggest that women in Sub-Saharan Africa have been negatively affected under economic crisis and adjustment, evidence about the differential impact on and responses to adjustment of women and men is limited due to lack of data and research. As a result, accurate gender analysis of adjustment programmes is hindered. This report argues that measures to redress gender bias must be integrated into all areas affected by adjustment programmes, including credit, agricultural markets, and social services such as health care and education, to alleviate the costs of adjustment being unequally borne by women.

In the early 1980s, a variety of policies that aimed to restore financial balance to African economies were introduced. These policies, often referred to as structural adjustment policies (SAPs), were implemented to lay down the conditions for renewed economic growth through the restructuring of public expenditure and trade policy, and the stabilisation of prices (including the exchange rate). A controversial aspect of SAPs centres on their effects on the poor and other disadvantaged groups, including women. It is difficult to assess the impact of adjustment on women, given the poor quality and availability of disaggregated data and lack of systematic research. However, some evidence indicates the following gendered impacts of SAPs, which have disproportionately burdened women: . Lower public expenditure in health and education. . Lower school attendance among girls. . In most countries, SAPs negatively affect small-scale women farmers. However, in parts of West Africa, women who grow cash crops have benefited due to a growth in demand among the poor urban population. . The introduction amongst poor women of coping strategies such as reduced feeding of their children, substitution of cheaper foods, increased participation in the informal market and, in some cases, prostitution. The identification of these adverse effects coupled with the poor economic performance of many adjusting countries has led to some modifications in policy approaches. Specific recommendations on future adjustment policies include: . Finance the continuing provision of social services through government and donor funds. . Focus primary health care delivery on: providing services which benefit women directly (such as family planning); health policies and services that recognise the different pressures on women's time; and wider community involvement (including by men) in health activities. . Introduce special incentives to encourage and ensure equal access to and completion of education for girls. . Channel resources, including the provision of credit and training in business and information skills, into supporting and extending women's activities (particularly in agriculture). Guarantee of equal access to land for a woman is imperative. . Open up the consultation process involved in the design and negotiation of adjustment programmes to wider groups, including women's ministries and women's organisations. . Address gender issues more explicitly in research and policy design, and collect sex-disaggregated data in order to identify gender biases.