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Globalisation has become a fashionable concept in scholarly discourses, a core dictum in the prescriptions of management gurus and a catch phrase for journalists and politicians. Central to the discussions that have been generated on globalisation is the assumption that we live in an era in which the greater part of social life is unceasingly determined by global processes which, in their workings, are eroding national cultures, national economies, national borders and state sovereignty. Of particular interest in this regard are the economic dimensions of globalisation and the commercial processes that underpin them. While opinion remains polarised as how best to manage the challenges posed by globalisation, there seems to be growing consensus that the process had been accompanied by growing inequalities not only among nations but also within nations. Women and children would seem to have been particularly badly hit by this growing polarisation and inequality.
Trade relations and dynamics whether international, regional or national, affect women’s livelihoods in multiple ways. As African economies attempt to respond to the challenges of globalisation by plugging further into the international system, understanding the gender impact of globalisation and trade becomes even more crucial. The gender impact of globalisation is complex and its effects are mixed. A growing body of the literature suggests however that African women are being further isolated and disempowered by globalisation and the trade and financial policies associated with it. Part of the explanation for this relates to the fact that there is a gender bias inherent in the macro economic and trade theories that underpin policy and practice. Yet, few will disagree that there is a need to deepen knowledge of the gender implications of globalisation generally and the trade dynamics that inform it specifically.