Gender Vulnerability to Drought: A Case Study of the Hausa Social Environment


Schroeder, Richard. 1987. "Gender Vulnerability to Drought: A Case Study of the Hausa Social Environment." Working Paper 58, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI.

Author: Richard Schroeder



This study investigates the effects of different class- and gender-based relationships on the relative drought vulnerability of Hausa households on the southern fringe of the Sahel. In particular, it describes the economic and social relationships that make certain people in that part of Africa (in particular, women) more likely to occupy the ecological and economic margins where drought and famine are commonplace.

The customs and beliefs associated with gender roles among the Hausa range widely, and the degree of vulnerability of different households varies accordingly. The study divides women's roles and relationships to their society into three categoies -- the "dominant" form (characterized by the practice of wife seclusion), the "residual" form (a less restrictive role found primarily among rural, agricultural population), and the "emergent" form (a "modern," more liberal life style) -- and examines the effects of each on vulnerability.

The study shows that women bear the brunt of the gender vulnerability in Hausaland and details the reasons for their disproportionate risk. In addition, it finds that there is a marked increase in vulnerability among peasant and working class women; they seem to experience all of the negative aspects of any particular form of gender relationship, while enjoying few, if any, of the benefits. Although it is difficult to make any quantitative comparisons of the relative levels of drought vulnerability due to gender relationships, it does appear that seclusion poses the greatest risks to lower calss women.

The study concludes that environmental relations are in all respects social relations, and that clearly, gender constructions have environmental implications. It follow that an understanding of how these relationships are formed and how they change is essential to an uderstanding of the relationship of a particular society to its environment. 

Topics: Class, Economies, Environment, Environmental Disasters, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Gendered Power Relations, Households, Livelihoods Regions: Africa, West Africa

Year: 1987

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