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Characterising Women in the Informal Sector and Their Struggles to Eke a Living Lessons from Ruwa, Zimbabwe.

  • Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University (ZEGU)

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The paper maps and the struggles and challenges that women in the informal sector face in emerging satellite towns providing a case of Ruwa which is located some 20 kilometres from Harare the capital city of Zimbabwe. The study engaged forty women in informal sector and trading goods and services of various types with the objective of eking a living given the constrained job market dictated upon by the unstable macro-economic environment in urban centres and the country at large. Simple random sampling was adopted to cover street (off-plot) and on-plot activities by the women in the settlement. Besides, non-probability sampling applied with some of the respondents who the research interviewed to let the story of the realities of the women unfold. In their struggle to eke a living the women face and have to brace with challenges including exposure to elements weather (rain, wind, and the sun), service provision, marketing of products, and regulatory forces. Given the macro-economic stability the country has been facing since the year 2000, some of the stakeholders like the town council and private actors in Ruwa have been on a precarious position to offer services. The industry and other employment sectors are operating below capacity. Despite this ‘freeze’ situation, stakeholders can still work together inclusive of the women in the informal sectors to create a forum of dialogue. Through dialogue, it is possible to formulate poverty-Reduction strategies that are accommodative of the plight and challenges of the peri-urban women and coin that in local developmental planning.
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UDC: 305-055.2(689.1) JEL: B54, I38 ID: 198559244
Characterising Women in the Informal
Sector and Their Struggles to Eke a Living
Lessons from Ruwa, Zimbabwe
Innocent Chirisa
University of Zimbabwe, Dept of Rural & Urban Planning, Harare, Zimbabwe
The paper maps and the struggles and challenges that women in the
informal sector face in emerging satellite towns providing a case of Ruwa which is
located some 20 kilometres from Harare the capital city of Zimbabwe. The study
engaged forty women in informal sector and trading goods and services of various
types with the objective of eking a living given the constrained job market dictated
upon by the unstable macro-economic environment in urban centres and the
country at large. Simple random sampling was adopted to cover street (off-plot)
and on-plot activities by the women in the settlement. Besides, non-probability
sampling applied with some of the respondents who the research interviewed to let
the story of the realities of the women unfold. In their struggle to eke a living the
women face and have to brace with challenges including exposure to elements
weather (rain, wind, and the sun), service provision, marketing of products, and
regulatory forces. Given the macro-economic stability the country has been facing
since the year 2000, some of the stakeholders like the town council and private
actors in Ruwa have been on a precarious position to offer services. The industry
and other employment sectors are operating below capacity. Despite this ‘freeze’
situation, stakeholders can still work together inclusive of the women in the
informal sectors to create a forum of dialogue. Through dialogue, it is possible to
formulate poverty-reduction strategies that are accommodative of the plight and
challenges of the peri-urban women and coin that in local developmental planning.
Corresponding author, Dept of Rural & Urban Planning, University of Zimbabwe, PO
Box MP167, Mt Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe, email:
Innocent, C., Characterising Women, JWE (2013, No. 1-2, 10-35) 11
The paper posits that a good governance approach is required in improving the life
of the women in the informal sector in Ruwa and elsewhere.
KEY WORDS: poverty reduction, gender empowerment, institutions, policy
dialogue, informal sector
The informal sector in Zimbabwe has been there for some time. It has
created employment for a lot of people, especially before the dollarisation
(Chirisa, 2009c). The informal sector refers to the business that is carried
out by the road side, in homes and as they walk (Suwal and Pant, 2009).
These transactions are usually not documented and those who participate in
such trade do not pay taxes to the revenue authority. The closest they come
to being registered is through the subscriptions or hawker’s license that they
pay to the city council. It is important to note only those who sell their
products at designated areas usually pay these subscriptions. The majority
flee every time they see the council officials approaching. Existing literature
suggests that the majority of the women in developing countries are engaged
in the informal sector (UN, 2000, Brown, 2006). The proportion of women
workers in the informal sector exceeds that of men in most countries.
Women’s share of the total informal workforce outside of urban agriculture
is higher than men’s share in nine out of twenty-one developing countries
for which data is available (UN, 2000). The vast majority of women in the
informal sector are home-based workers or street vendors. It has been noted
that there is an overlap between working in the informal economy and being
poor. A higher percentage of people working in the informal sector, relative
to the formal sector are poor. Chen (2009) asserts that there is no simple
relationship between working in the informal economy and escaping
poverty. Informal workers typically lack the social protection afforded to
formal paid workers such as worker benefits and health insurance and
typically work under irregular and casual contracts (Suwal and Pant, 2009).
It ought to be registered that there are a number of contexts (social, political,
economic and environmental and psychological in which WIIS operate.)
Women tend to work in the invisible sectors of the economy. These sectors
are subject to super-exploitation (Bibars, 2001). Women have a weak
bargaining position, as they tend to be isolated and unorganised. Even in the
formal sector they are crowded in the low income and low skilled jobs ibid.
This is just because women tend to have problems in access to credit and
12 Journal of Women's Entrepreneurship and Education (2013, No. 1-2, 10-35)
educational facilities (Ombati and Ombati, 2012), women have an inferior
legal status and women tend to take greater responsibilities for raising
children (Moghadam, 2005).
The majority of Ash Road women residents in Pietmaritsburg South
Africa derive a living through the informal sector (CALS, 2005). This is the
same situation in the urban areas of Zimbabwe (Chirisa, 2009b). They sell
food and merchandise and are dependent on jobs as day labourers or other
jobs within the informal sector, where they are vulnerable to what can only
be described as exploitation. The engagement by households in the informal
economy is not only a headache to local authorities in the developing
countries but also heartache to the households themselves...” (Chirisa
2009b:257). Women in the informal sector are often caught in the crossfire
of this confusion. In Zimbabwe the economic hardships brought about by
Economic Adjustment Programme (ESAP) and the economy coupled with
inflationary cycles and predominantly produced a socio-economic miasma
(Chirisa, 2009b). A psycho-social analysis of the problems being faced by
WIIS (Women in the informal sector) reveals that the informal traders are
faced with a number of ethical dilemmas. This is because most of the time
these actors are nothing but victims of circumstances (ibid). Informal traders
hide behind many alibis, one of them being that the formal sector is in no
position to absorb them. However, formal authorities tend to let ‘sleeping
dogs lie’ hence showing ambivalence as they observe informal traders tend
to house themselves. Stakeholders in the WIIS debate include the individual
women themselves, the cooperate venture’ local authorities, politicians,
human rights organizations and development agencies and the state (UNDP,
2002: Chirisa 2009a, b, c). Chirisa, (2009c) notes that the informal sector in
Zimbabwe is marked by easy entry of operators, reliance on indigenous
resources, family ownership of enterprises, labour intensive and adopted
technology, and skill required outside the formal skill system. However,
according to the UNCHS, (1998) a close link has been observed to exist
between human settlements and the informal sector and a careful major
between the two has been advocated for. This means that human habitat
should be so designed to accommodate micro to small-scale business
operations, dealing with convenient items and goods, fruits, vegetables,
repairs and maintenance to mention but a few. Paradza, in Chirisa (2009c),
identified five types of Informal sector operations (ISOs), based on location,
residences (carried out at home), shop pavements, roadside operators.
Innocent, C., Characterising Women, JWE (2013, No. 1-2, 10-35) 13
According to Kolstee, et al (1994) and Matsebula (1996) the informal
sector in Zimbabwe is characterised by a diverse range of small-scale and
micro-activities usually with no corresponding institutions such as banks
and with none of opportunities for growth and accumulation, which typify
formal small-scale enterprises. Shinda, (1998) defines informal activities as
economic activities not included in a nation’s data on gross domestic
product and not subject to formal contracts, licensing, and taxation. These
businesses generally rely on indigenous resources, small scale operations
and unregulated competitive markets. In Shinda’s simplification the concept
most often the informal economy refers to owner/operator businesses of the
urban poor, unskilled or semiskilled workers and the chronic unemployed.
These workers and entrepreneurs are often on the fringe of, if not outside,
social and fiscal legality. Paradza, (1999) posits that the informal sector
operations (ISOs) are all enterprises not registered under the companies act
or cooperatives act and those which are not assessed for taxation by the
central government. In Zimbabwe as in any other economies in the world,
the informal sector enterprises have characteristics including being family
organised; being small and labour-intensive; being unregulated and subject
to high level of competition; related directly and personally to their clients;
using local materials and being efficient at recycling materials; experiencing
a serious scarcity of capital and having access to credit from financial
institutions; and being rarely recipients of government or foreign aid
(Dhemba, 1998).
There are many different points of view from which one can observe
the informal sector. It can be viewed in a positive way as a provider of
employment and incomes to millions of people who would otherwise lack
the means of survival (Dhemba, 1998). It can be viewed more negatively as
a whole segment of society that escaped regulation and protection. It can be
romanticised as a breeding ground of entrepreneurship which could flourish
if only it were not encumbered with a network of unnecessary regulation
and bureaucracy. It can be condemned as a vast sea of backwardness,
poverty, crime and unsanitary conditions. Or it can simply be ignored.”
Overall, the informal sector has enabled a lot of people to make a living and
to take care of their families. The challenges that women face in the
informal sector need to be addressed but the only way that can be done are
by understanding what it is (Avolio, 2012).
In Zimbabwe, urban centres, with the increasing decay in the economy
since the 1990s, women in the informal sector (WIIS) have been growing by
14 Journal of Women's Entrepreneurship and Education (2013, No. 1-2, 10-35)
leaps and bounds (cf. Chirisa, 2009a, b, c). These have engaged in a number
of informal activities ranging from manufacturing to marketing of different
goods and services. The article seeks to establish an understanding of the
WIIS operations in a peri-urban setting. It highlights the diverse challenges
they face every day in their trade and quest for household economic
survival. The overall purpose of the paper is to try and inform policy on the
astute role stakeholders have in creating better working environments
especially for the women’s trading and business. Thus, the paper attempts
some classification of the challenges faced by women in peri-urban informal
trading. It gives a description of the different working contexts and
environments in which women operate and then examines the coping
strategies they have adopted in order to adapt and circumvent to their
challenges. Furthermore a suggestion of recommendations for different
stakeholders to improve the situation of women in peri-urban settlements is
Characterizing the Study Area and the Research Methodology
The study sought to answer the following fundamental questions,
a) How are peri-urban women in the informal sector characterised in
terms of age, sex, education, income and household expenditure,
b) In what places do these women operate? What are the
environmental conditions of these operating places?
c) What good and services do peri-urban women in the informal
sector market and sell?
d) What challenges (environmental, personal, health, social and
institutional) do peri-urban women in the informal sector grapple
with on a day-to-day basis?
e) What coping strategies do the women have in terms survival and
continuity in business?
f) Do the peri-urban women in the informal sector receive any
support from the local authorities and related institutions?
g) What are the major determinants for the perpetration of informal
sector operations in the peri-urban and related spaces?
h) What options are there to make the life of peri-urban women in the
informal sector better? How can this be achieved.
Innocent, C., Characterising Women, JWE (2013, No. 1-2, 10-35) 15
In light of the foregoing questions, the research applied a mixed
approach. The study involved some fieldwork in which women in the
informal sector who are located in the peri- urban Ruwa were targeted. It
was not easy to determine the actual numbers in the streets and others
operating at home. A total sample of forty (40) women fitting the following
clustering was used. Subjects were identified by way of random stratified
sampling methods. At the end of the day they could be classified as: those
operations on plot (in the housing perimeters); those operations away from
home (off plot) and; those moving around with their goods (mobile). Data
was solicited via observations, interviews and questionnaires. Observations
were made being aided by photography. Translation of questions on the
questionnaires helped the respondents to understand issues better and
respond from an ‘informed’ stage point. Data recorded on questionnaires
was later analysed by way of creating frequencies and turning them into
tables. Photographs were presented and also analysed. The study was faced
with a number of dilemmas and the following are points are note worthy:
fear of victimization expressed by the participants; and expectation to be
paid by some participants for them to give out information. But the
researcher had to explain that the research was conducted for academic
purposes only. Due to financial constraints, a sample was chosen as a
refection of the outcome that could accrue a comprehensive study of the
whole area. Triangulating methods for study was useful in providing a better
picture of the realities of women in the informal sector in Ruwa.
The paper is organised to consist of the following sections: the state of
the informal sector and women in urban Zimbabwe, research design and
methodology, analysis of the research findings, coping strategies by women
in Ruwa, and conclusion and policy alternatives. These are analysed in
keeping with the primary objective of the paper which is about
characterising women in the informal sector (WIIS) in peri- urban areas in
relation to the challenges that they face.
Ruwa, a peri-urban town located twenty three kilometres from Harare,
the capital city of Zimbabwe was taken for a study area. The area was an
outstanding peri-urban farming zone, contributing a lot towards market
gardening and other farming produce, especially for the benefit of Harare.
However, the farming function is gradually diminishing. To date the town
has so developed to include upcoming large residential area estates
including Windsor Park, Ruwa, Chipukutu, Sunway City, Springvale,
Riverside, Zimre Park, Damofalls, and Norah. This can be regarded as a
16 Journal of Women's Entrepreneurship and Education (2013, No. 1-2, 10-35)
solid mark of the ecological footprint for the town. Ruwa is situated along
the Harare-Mutare Road and the area also has a large industrial base
supported by the existence of a railway line (Botswana-Bulawayo-Gweru-
Harare-Mutare-Mozambique). Provision of infrastructure in the town is
mainly private-sector-driven. Ruwa was established as a growth point in
1986. A local board to manage it was appointed in 1991 by the government
in accordance with the Urban Councils Act. Before 1991, the Goromonzi
Rural District Council and the Urban Development Corporation (UDCorp)
jointly administered Ruwa.
Women Challenges in Working in the Streets as Vendors
A number of women in Ruwa, like in most urban centres in the
developing world, are currently involved in “petty commodity” production
and trading (that is the selling of the sweets, vegetables and fruits
marketing). This number continues to grow by day. They usually line up
streets, street corners and pavements women as they trade. But some are
hidden and operate at homes and other potential market zones. An
examination of the diverse range of the goods and service they deal in
shows that both consumable and non-consumables goods are sold. Petty
commodity dealing, prima face, is easy and cheap to venture into. However
there are a plethora of challenges that trades have to battle with - social,
economic, physical and environmental. Apparently in Ruwa, like most
urban centres in Zimbabwe, hordes of women joining others on the street for
the promotion of better livelihoods face these challenges almost on a daily
The paper provides some operational definitions in the study. For
example, the informal sector has been taken to mean the production and
marketing of goods and services outside the established formal sector (cf.
Paradza, 1999). Petty commodities were defined as goods of a low profile,
mainly convenient goods including fruit, vegetable and small items whose
profit is very meagre, sometimes as little as US0,05 per item (Brown, 2006).
Stakeholders refer to all people or actors that affect or are affected by the
operations of an organization or entity of operations (in this case, women
trying to organize themselves for production and marketing for as mainly as
mainly a survival coping strategy). Stigmatisation was taken to refer to the
tendency of shunning or ostracizing certain groups of people by their noted
misfit elements or characteristics. Women engaged in the low profile
Innocent, C., Characterising Women, JWE (2013, No. 1-2, 10-35) 17
business are often stigmatised and associated with high levels of poverty or
sometimes with bad practices like prostitution. Lastly, the term working
context narrowly refers to the place, location or site in which actors (in this
case, women) work in (cf. Suwal and Pant, 2009). But, broadly it can cover
the social, cultural, economic, political, institutional and psychological
environments in which operators are exposed.
Figure 1: Age Structure of WIIS in Ruwa
Important in understanding the issues regarding WIIS in Ruwa was a
demographic analysis of the participants of the study - the sample of 40
women randomly ‘picked’ from Ruwa’s townships and locations. Their age
was in an almost proportional distribution with the least range being 10-14
years of age (Figure 1). Regarding marital status, the married constituted a
large percentage of the research population (about 57%) and on average
fitted in the ages of 21 to 40 years (Figure 2). This showed that the
population of women in the informal sector in Ruwa is probably dominated
by the married. Those who are single (never married) followed at 10%. This
may show a trend that perhaps women in these brackets could be
supplementing their spouses’s salaries or have been recently out of school
and found the informal sector as a ready employer, respectively. The
remainder were found to fall in the bracket of widows and the separated.
Usually, these minorities have no option but to try and engage in the
informal sector for them to be able to fend for their dependants and
relations. The peri-urban areas are often cheaper than the centres hence most
indicated that they had been attracted to Ruwa because the centre provided
18 Journal of Women's Entrepreneurship and Education (2013, No. 1-2, 10-35)
for them with a hub of reprieve from the ‘urban penalty’ of unaffordable
rents and lack of spaciousness for certain ventures like practicing off-plot
As the majority of the spouses’ for the married WIIS were establshed
as not employed (Figure 3)and this had resulted in the need to search for
another means of income to sustain the family (Figure 4). The single women
stated that they were to make a living so they are able to sustain themselves
and members of the extended family.
Figure 2: Marital Status of WIIS in Ruwa
Figure 3: Employment Status of Spouses of Respondents
Innocent, C., Characterising Women, JWE (2013, No. 1-2, 10-35) 19
The majority of those who had their husbands working had these
husbands earning between $101 and $200 per month. Probably most of
these worked in the industrial location within Ruwa or even in harare; some
might have been in government as most government and industrial workers
earned an average of $200 per month, at the time of the study, in February
and March, 2010.
Figure 4: Monthly Earnings of Spouses
Source: Author
Regarding the period of stay in Ruwa, most of the interviewed women
(according to Figure 5) had stayed in Ruwa for over 7 years and have been
in the trade (informal sector) for quite some time. To them the informal
sector had created an opportunity for them to survive. They were more
aware of the challenges that manifest in Ruwa and which go with the trade
and some indicated to have adjusted accordingly in keeping with their
environment and market niche. Those who were recently settled in Ruwa
(less than seven years) indicated that they had been ‘pushed to the
periphery’ due to economic hardships that characterised the economy,
beginning around 1997 and which became more vicious after Operation
Murambatsvina in 2005. After Operation Murambatsvina, many households
had nowhere to stay and some found ‘favour’ from reations in the diaspora
who asked them to go and be stewards of their stands in Ruwa where they
were constructing houses. This was noted to be particularly true with the
upcoming suburbs including Zimre Park, Chipukutu, Springvale, Sunway
20 Journal of Women's Entrepreneurship and Education (2013, No. 1-2, 10-35)
City, Riverside and Damofalls. A significant percentage of the residents
indicated that they were keeping charge of the developments on the plots of
their relatives staying out of the peri-urban town. Some of the were either
operating at home or in the streets. Those operating at home, in the new
suburbs, were maily of the steward type.
Figure 5: Period of Stay in Ruwa by Respondents
Source: Author
With respect to highest educational level attained, the majority of the
respondents (63 %) indicated that they had gone to Ordinary Level. Form
the sample only one had managed to reach Advanced Level and had
proceeded to get a marketing diploma (see Figure 8). One of the embedded
reasons for this lack of advancement of women in education could be
probably attributed to the the patriachal nature of the Zimbabwen society the
male child is perceived more important than the female child. women are
victims of this oppressive and cultural values. Due to this position most
women tend to have an underdog position in life: their aspirations are
heckled at; opportunities for them are choked up and most never rise. This
explanation was echoed by one twenty-seven year old woman who said:
“My parents thought the modest destiny for my life was
to get married. They gave first preference to my brothers
for education. They told me that if they invested in my
education that was tantamount to tying money to the leg of
a leopard for the investment would benefit my husband’s
family than mine. It is unfortunate that some families still
wield this barbaric view and many girl children suffer the
Innocent, C., Characterising Women, JWE (2013, No. 1-2, 10-35) 21
same. Now I am married and am a mother of two. I
somewhat observe this favouritism even in my husband
giving first preference to my two year old son. He
identifies with him more than the girl. Woe to us
Figure 8: Highest Educational Level attained by Respondents
Source: Author
The level of education tends to determine one’s next level of training
(Ombati and Ombati, 2012). The vast majority of the WISS was noted to be
untrained potrayed by Figure 9. Apart from the inhibitive and financial
constraints they faced, most indicated that they had managed to get to
Ordinary Level but had failed at that level. Most training colleges required
that they had at least five Ordinary level passes. Those who had managed to
get some training, it was ironic to note that they were not practicing in the
areas they had trained – Figures 9 and 10- specifically secretarial, marketing
and computing. One computing but single graduate noted:
“Jobs are few in the market. Unless you get it by foul
means, it is very difficult to get one. Even if you decide to
venture into computing business, it requires a large
capital for equipment and day to day operation outlay and
decent space to attract customers. In this place, how many
people will have their papers typed. Good business can
only take place in the city centre. It is better for me to be
out here and sell bread than to trouble myself getting to
Harare everyday”.
22 Journal of Women's Entrepreneurship and Education (2013, No. 1-2, 10-35)
Figure 9: Professions of Respondents
Source: According to the author findings
Very few (less than 20%) have used their training to make a living.
Of those who were previously employed most of them were either shop
assistants/ sales women or they worked as secretaries. The rest worked as
nurse aids, house maids, worked at a food outlet or were involved in poultry
Figure 10: Past work experience of Respondents
Source: According to the author findings
Innocent, C., Characterising Women, JWE (2013, No. 1-2, 10-35) 23
Characteristics of the Commodities and Services by WIIS in
Figure 6 shows the types of commodities sold by WIIS in Ruwa.
These were noted to range from fruits and vegetables (required on a daily
basis), to cooked food, to clothing, textiles and furniture (long range goods).
Others dealt in everything through purposeful diversification, as a way to
capture the needs of a variety of customers and also to ensure a stable
income in all periods of the day, months and seasons. Due to the fact
established that most of the respondents had many dependants that banked
on them for support, they had to ensure that a stable income flow was at
least established per day. Although the majority indicated that they were just
breaking even, they still kept on engaging in business lest they literally
would collapse in income sourcing. Respondents indicated that meeting the
needs of dependants with whom they stayed was more demanding than
those away as those they were with were part and parcel of their daily life
profile (Figure 7). Convenient goods were the ‘cash cows’ for meeting daily
needs. One lady had to remark:
As you just know, bread is needed daily and it brings
some cash to take us to the next day, though it’s not much.
It is unlike, these sandals; the market is flooded now and
finding customers, even for these cheap goods, for only $3
per pair, can take you two weeks. I seldom worry about
those dependants in the village. I only major in providing
them with school fees and money for the gringing mill. For
the rest, they grow crops and rear animals in the village.
In fact, relative to mine, their life does not require much of
cash. As for me, I have rent to pay, fares to pay, and
mealie meal to buy. At least I can make money here
though the road is tough”.
24 Journal of Women's Entrepreneurship and Education (2013, No. 1-2, 10-35)
Figure 6: Types products that WIIS in Ruwa deal in.
Source: Author
Figure 7: Measuring Number of Dependants stayed with the Total Number
of Dependants by Respondent
Source: Author
Markets and Transportation Modes for WIIS in Ruwa
Figure 11 indicates that most of the respondents purchase their goods
for resale at Mbare Musika, the largest wholesale market for fruits and
vegetables in Harare. it was learnt that other items are also bought in the
Harare Central Business District (CBD). As already highlighted Ruwa is
well served with road infrastructure and connected to this centre. Goods
sourced from the CBD include clothing, footwear and saloon materials.
Innocent, C., Characterising Women, JWE (2013, No. 1-2, 10-35) 25
WIIS indicated that they used various modes of transport including midi-,
mini and conventional buses. Some indicated that they sometimes used rail
transport, but very rarely (Tables 1 and 2)
. From the surrounding farms in
Goromonzi district, the respondents buying farming products mentioned that
they sometimes buy from these farms. However, they indicated that it was a
good source market if one had own private vehice to ferry the goods.
Another source market was the long distance involving crossborder
ventures. The conventional bus was the predominant mode of transport
used. In essence, crossborder commodity sourcing requires substantial
amounts of capital. South Africa stood out as an outstanding source market
compared to the other stated countries. This is capital that the majority of
WIIS do not have (see Figure 11).
Figure 11: Source Markets of Goods sold by Respondents
Source: Author
Most of the women (23) were content with their transport arrangements and said that there
were no difficulties that they faced when transporting their goods, this was largely because
they got the transport they required right at the source market. Those who felt that it was
not that reliable complain about tyre punctures along the way. Those who travelled across
the borders complained of the long lines that were a characteristic of the borders and the
duty that they had to pay which would make their goods expensive and thus reduce the
profits the made.
26 Journal of Women's Entrepreneurship and Education (2013, No. 1-2, 10-35)
Table 1: Mode of Transport from Market (n = 40)
Mode Frequency
Percentage (%)
Train 1 2.5
Walking 1 2.5
Personal Car 2 5.0
Private delivery trucks 9 22.5
Buses (Min, Midi & Conventional)
30 75
None 1 2.5
Table 2: Degree of Transport reliability (n=40)
Aspect Frequency Percentage (%)
Very reliable 23 57.5
Reliable 8 20.0
Not very reliable 8 20.0
Not reliable at all 0 0.00
Not applicable 2 5.0
Source: According to the author findings
Income and Expenditure for WIIS in Ruwa
As Figure 12 suggests, the majority of the women required $0 to $40
to be able to purchase the goods for resale. This, ipso facto was in reference
to the local Mbare and CBD source markets. Very few were found needing
more than $41 largely because of the products that they trade in. Overall, the
products they purchased required low capital but in the realities of the WIIS
in Ruwa such an amount was not easy in having it ready in the coffers as
well as maintaining the capital level. This is explained by the little sales
sales of just above $40 a day, showing that not much profit was realised per
day (Figure 13). Figure 14 highlights the difference in expenditure of the
respondents. Most used at least $5 a day for their daily expenses, which was
for bread and transportation. Saving money earned was difficlut among
WIIS unaccounted for household consumptions, wastefulness through
rotting of perishables and expenditure.Also, due to stiff competition among
the women and other sellers in the same area and same markets, potential
profits were to be shared among the players.
Innocent, C., Characterising Women, JWE (2013, No. 1-2, 10-35) 27
Figure 12: Money required when buying goods daily or episodically
Source: Author
Figure13: Possible Sales per day by Respondents
Source: Author
Figure 14: Household daily expenditure by Respondents
Source: Author
28 Journal of Women's Entrepreneurship and Education (2013, No. 1-2, 10-35)
The amount that they used per month according to Figure 15, exclude
daily expenditure. Monthly spending included rent, payment of bills (water
and power).
Figure 15: Household month-based expenditure by Respondents
Source: Author
Place-based considerations (Working Contexts) for WIIS in
Table 3 highlights the reasons that influenced people to embark in the
trade as well as the reasons they are working where they are. 61% of the
respondents were attracted by the potential business in the area. The other
41% were looking for a livelihood. Table 4 shows the different working
contexts in image form.
Table 3: What attracted/pushed you here?
Reason Frequency Percentage
We lacked documentation for formal places 1
This place is confluent and central place. More
customers 13
This place is busier than normal designated place 5
We were experiencing poverty at home; quest for
livelihood 12
To supplement spouse's earnings 3
This place is recognized by council 5
Other reasons 2
Innocent, C., Characterising Women, JWE (2013, No. 1-2, 10-35) 29
The challenge that affected the respondents the most according to
Table 4 the police and regulators (council) who frequented their areas of
trade. Those who claimed that there were no problems could have been
afraid of stating the problems or could not have understood the question.
These challenges can be classified into the social, economic, physiological,
political and environmental challenges. Challenges in the informal sector
that women in peri-urban areas face include water shortages, police and
regulator harassment, lack of protection from the elements, family care
burdens found at home.
Table 4: Challenges faced when working (n=40)- scoring based on the
sample of the women surveyed
Aspect Frequency Percentage
Conflict between police and regulators 12
African science (witchcraft) 3
Gossip 1
Disturbance by drunkards and busybodies 2
Lack of shelter against weather elements 4
Bad debtors 2
Lack of change 2
Rotting of vegetables before sale 2
Presence of dogs on premises 1
Strictness of landlord to allow customers in his
stand 2
Failure to pay city council rates 1
Failure to make daily reasonable sales 1
Few customers coming 2
Water shortages 5
Burden of domestic responsibility 1
None 11
Source: Author
Challenges in the informal sector that affected the women at home the
most were because of the family care burden. Illness, visitors and even
house chores affected their attendance of work as they had to take care of
the home first before going for work. Those who stated that there were no
challenges at home can only then be biased as they might not have taken
into consideration the day to day expectations of the home (see Table 5).
30 Journal of Women's Entrepreneurship and Education (2013, No. 1-2, 10-35)
Table 5: Challenges faced by WIIS at Home
Aspect Frequency Percentage (%)
Water shortage 3
Power shortage 2
Landlord causing problems 2
Family care burden 11
Exhaustion from work 1
Distance 1
None 23
Source: Author
The women have experienced a lot of challenges that have affected
their lives. The illnesses that they had affected their work as in some cases
they would be forced to stay at home because they could not attend work
(compare Table 6).
Table 6: Physiological challenges by WIIS in Ruwa
Aspect Frequency Percentage (%)
Stomach cramps 1
Chronic headache 7
Arthritis 5
Fibroids 2
Allergies 1
Chest pain 5
Hyper tension 2
Heart disease 2
General illness 1
None 22
Surgical Operation 1
Source: Author
Coping Strategies by Women in Ruwa
Coping strategies that the women had adopted included making sure
that they had paid their ‘subscriptions’ so that they were not bothered by the
police and other regulatory bodies. They had also built makeshift shelters to
protect them against the elements. However some chose to run away from
Innocent, C., Characterising Women, JWE (2013, No. 1-2, 10-35) 31
the police when they saw them and go home once it started raining or got
too cold. Some of these tactics of a “guerrilla” type can disturb the flow of
business. Some respondents indicated that the council has tried to assist with
building structures for them to operate them what the women could do is
also come up with associations that would aim at improving their situations.
As noted in Table 7, WIIS had adopted various coping strategies to enable
them to adapt to the situation that they were in. these coping strategies have
enabled them to continue with their business operations.
Table 7: Coping Strategies by WIIS in Ruwa (n=40)
Aspect Frequency Percentage (%)
Medical Intervention 7
Help from family members 3
Avoid credit sales 1
Makeshift shelters 4
Rotational savings' clubs 2
Tolerance 3
Diversifying 1
Getting a Hawker's license 4
Hiring a help 0
Lobbying council to provide marketing place 2
Lack of capital 1
None 15
Source: Author
One way of coping with the challenges women faced daily in their
operational environment as well as with the challenges at home was that of
maintaining a ‘positive mind’ in themselves. This is some kind of a self-
empowerment tool. WIIS in Ruwa made some suggestions which they said
could also help other women facing the same challenges as they were. Table
8 portrays the suggestions that the WIIS had for other women who were in
the same sector.
32 Journal of Women's Entrepreneurship and Education (2013, No. 1-2, 10-35)
Table 8: Suggestions by WIIS in Ruwa to other women (n=40)
Suggestions to other women in the same sector Frequency
Be self-reliant 15 37.5
Adopt zero tolerance to gossip 1 2.5
Persevere and endu
re in business and overcome
your challenges
26 65.0
Be confident 1 2.5
Be diligent 1 2.5
Mind your own business 2 5.0
Encourage rotational savings' clubs 2 5.0
Embark on a better business plan 2 5.0
Young women should find something to d
o (work
own hands) 1 2.5
Diversify 2 5.0
Self control and good conduct 2 5.0
Avid practicing witchcraft 1 2.5
Support each other, relations and spouses 1 2.5
Seek training and perform better 1 2.5
Be brave, take it as a challenge 3 7.5
Reject products should be for home use 1 2.5
Source: According to the author findings
Conclusion and Policy Alternatives
Informal sector players operate in a risky terrain One of lessons can be
deduced from this study is that WIIS operate in the streets, at home and
even whilst walking from one place to the other. This is not an easy job
given the challenges regarding each place’s need and demand. Generally,
WIIS like men in the informal sector experience a lot of challenges in quest
for household survival. Despite these challenges they have come up with
their own coping strategies that have enabled them to continue with their
trade. Life in the informal sector is not as easy as it seems. Different
stakeholders with respect to WIIS could be having different views about
them (including) their husband, the government, and human rights
organisations. Though the research period the following ideas can help in
the improvement of the situation of actors in the informal sector, for
instance, that: women can form associations (which can lobby for the
recognition of the sector at the local level) and that could address their
Innocent, C., Characterising Women, JWE (2013, No. 1-2, 10-35) 33
situation as they know their position better; in organizing round tables they
can also create a system that also enables them to better their situation by
ensuring a formalized civic system to cushion them against certain
challenges including the need for some kind of pension, medical bills and
other key contribution for life assurance; and that, training should be done
so that the women (as well as men) know how to carry out their business
and make profits (This training has to be hands on and participatory). In
general terms, women have more challenges than men.
[1] Beatrice, A. 2012. “Why Women Enter into Entrepreneurship? An Emerging
Conceptual Framework Based on the Peruvian Case.” Journal of Women
Entrepreneurship and Education, 3-4: 43-63.
[2] Bibars, I. 2001. Victims and Heroines: Women, Welfare and the Egyptian State,
London: Zed.
[3] Brown, A. (ed.) 2006. The contested Space: Street trading, public space and
livelihoods in developing countries. ITDG and Cardiff University.
[4] CALS. 2005. Pushed to the Periphery, Low-income residents in
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[5] Chen, Martha. A. 2009. Women in the informal sector: A Global picture, the
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[6] Chirisa, I. 2009a. “Prospects for the asset based community development
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[15] Ombati, V. and M. Ombati. 2012. “Gender Inequality in Education in sub-
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Kategorisanje žena angažovanih u neformalnom
sektoru privređivanja i njihove borbe za
preživljavanje: iskustva iz Ruwa, Zimbabve
Rad mapira izazove sa kojima se žene suočavaju u neformalnom sektoru u
naseljima u nastajanju, uzimajući za primer grad Ruwa koji se nalazi oko 20
kilometara od Hararea, glavnog grada Zimbabvea. Studija obuhvata 40 žena
,angažovanih u neformalnom sektoru u trgovini različitim robama i uslugama sa
ciljem da se prehrane u uslovima ograničenog tržišta rada, kao i nestabilnog
makro-ekonomskog okruženja u urbanim centrima i zemlji u celini. Za prikazivanje
neformalnih aktivnosti žena u nekom naselju, koristi se metod slučajnog uzorka.
Pored toga, metode neslučajnog uzorkovanja primenjene su na neke od
intervjuisanih ispitanika .Na ovaj način, omogućeno je upoznavanje sa istinitim
pričama,koje su žene tokom intervjua pominjale. Na osnovu njih se može zaključiti
da se u njihovoj borbi za preživljavanje, žene suočavaju sa brojnim izazovima zbog
izloženosti različitim vremenskim uslovima (kiša, vetar i sunce), kod pružanja
usluga, marketinga proizvoda i zakonskih propisa. S obzirom na makro-ekonomsku
situaciju sa kojom se zemlja suočavala još od 2000. godine, neki od akcionara
poput gradskog veća i privatnih aktera u naselju Ruwa , našli su se u nezavidnoj
Innocent, C., Characterising Women, JWE (2013, No. 1-2, 10-35) 35
situaciji kada je reč o ponudi usluga. Takodje,industrijski i drugi sektori ,koji utiču
na zapošljavanje nemaju dovoljno kapaciteta da prime nove radnike. Uprkos ovoj
“zamrznutoj” situaciji, zainteresovane strane, uključujući i žene u neformalnom
sektoru, još uvek mogu da rade zajedno na stvaranju uslova za dijalog. Kroz
dijalog, moguće je da se formulišu strategije razvojnog lokalnog planiranja za
smanjivanje siromaštva koje, između ostalog, mogu da se prilagode izazovima sa
kojima se žene suočavaju iz prigradskih područja. U radu se zaključuje da je dobar
pristup upravljanju neophodan za poboljšanje života žena u neformalnom sektoru u
gradu Ruwa i drugde.
KLJUČNE REČI: smanjenje siromaštva, unapređivanje rodne ravnopravnosti,
institucije, politički dijalog, neformalni sektor
Article history: Received: 21 September, 2012
Accepted: 20 February, 2013
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The World Bank, quoted in Mhishi (1998)estimatedurbanpoverty in Zimbabwe in 1990191to be 12%. The 1995 Poverty Assessment Study found that urban poverty was now 39%.What is evidentfrom these statisticsis that urban poverty is increasingat unprecedentedlevels.What is also evident from studies that have beencarriedoutis thatthosecaughtupinurbanpovertyresortto theinformalsector ~s a survival strategy. Of concern also is the likelihoodof more people living in cities thanin rural areas in the next millennium.The past eight years of"strnctural adjustmentwithout growth" unleashedmassiveretrenchmentsin both the public andprivatesector,andas weembarkonthe secondphaseof thereformprogramme, there are indicationsthat the formal sector will shrink even further. It is therefore evidentthattheonlysectorwithpotentialtocreatemorejobs is theinformalsector. It is against this background of increasing urban poverty, urbanisation and declining formal employment opportunities that his paper puts forward some suggestionsfor promoting the growth of the informal sector.