Women, the Informal Economy and the State in Lesotho

Mark Chingono


Poor women in Lesotho endure a triple jeopardy of exploitation by patriarchy, capitalism and the state. To escape from this jeopardy increasing numbers of poor women are entering the informal economy, which is increasingly becoming the major dynamic and expanding sector of the economy. Becoming informal entrepreneurs has not only financially empowered women, but has also subverted traditional patriarchal gender power relations. This paper, based on a critical field survey, considers the experience of women in the informal sector, changes in gender and class relations and the contribution of the informal economy to national development. The paper shows that the informal economy is a contested terrain in which kinship values of the economy of affection coexist in dynamic tension with those of primitive capitalism, and that the patriarchal and weak state is the major obstacle to poor women's emancipation. It concludes that, since the informal economy is the only vehicle for poor women's empowerment, policy must optimize the benefits of the informal sector while limiting its excesses.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.22158/wjssr.v3n4p629


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