Bird’s eye view of the book
Gender is seen as a core organizing principle that underlies livelihoods, migration and related processes. The book provides a comprehensive discussion on the theories and approaches on gender and development. It further addresses the nexus between politico-socio-economic forces and gender, and explores whether or not rural households, especially women, benefit from rural–urban migration or whether it promotes the subordination of women. The book contributes to an understanding of the gender, livelihoods and migration debate within the context of sub-Saharan Africa, where rural-urban migration in particular, is a major phenomenon. Lastly, the book provides theoretically-led empirical work that contributes to the current debate in anthropology.
In the days of the quick fix and the superficial sound-bite, it is a rare treat to have a book that is based on serious and in-depth empirical research and put together in both a theoretically-informed and sensitive way. It is even rarer that such a book smoothly links together three of the most pertinent themes in current studies on sub-Saharan Africa: gender, livelihoods and migration. Justina’s book produces a wealth of important findings that thoroughly demonstrate that migration is a profoundly gendered process, which has huge consequences for rural households in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly with regard to economic livelihoods, food security, women’s reproductive responsibilities and political participation. The main thesis of the book, and that which is most salient to broader work on Africa, is that most African women confront significant socio-cultural and economic constraints (lack of access to resources, limited decision-making opportunities, and relatively lower socio-economic status within the household and community, for example). Justina takes the empirical discoveries from 30 years ago (Bukh, 1979, for example) about the adverse effects of male-outmigration from Ghana’s central Volta Region, and develops them to show that still, and even more so in some cases, in the 21st century, this already vulnerable position of women continues to be worsened by male out-migration, which has gendered consequences for women’s lives and their statuses in their communities and households, resulting in an increase in women’s productive and reproductive responsibilities. Overall, this book demonstrates a thorough fingertip command and application of several literatures, indeed an impressive command of ideas and debates from a wide range of disciplines. (Foreword by Dr. Lynne Brydon, Head of School of History and Cultures, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom)
This book has provided a comprehensive discussion of gender and development theories, and examined the interrelationship between gender, rural livelihoods, and migration in Africa, focusing on the case of Ghana. The theoretical starting point is the notion that in spite of the growing literature on migration and livelihoods, gender has been ignored in the discourse. Another premise was that the linkage between these phenomena has not been explored adequately, if at all. In question was the relationship between the social construction of gender, the division of labour within households, the socio-economic status of households, the migration decision, that is, who migrates, the determinants or motivation for migration, and the process of rural-urban migration. Most importantly, the book examined the logical relation of these concepts with households in the rural sending areas, particularly the implications for women’s farm and non-farm livelihoods, household responsibilities and their status within the household.
Empirical evidence from the study reveals that outmigration has become an important income and employment diversification strategy among rural households, with varied implications. Wide disparities in terms of income opportunities and superior infrastructure and services in urban areas are some of the factors explaining rural-urban migration. Migration has significant impact on rural areas in Africa. However, the effects of migration are highly contextual, as a wide range of variables interact and influence the cross-effects of demographic changes and the productive and reproductive roles of women and men in rural households. The impact of migration on rural livelihoods can be considered as negative in the sense that it may generate a labour shortage, deprive rural areas of younger and best educated people and increase the workload of women. At the same time, it is important to recognise the potential and actual (direct and indirect) contribution of migrants and their networks in supporting agricultural activities and community development. Evidently, the impacts, whether positive or negative, vary greatly and depend on a number of factors and variables, which policy makers and development practitioners need to address.