Two examples of native non-Western cultures that have been impacted by globalization include (1) members of the Hausa tribe in Niger beginning in the 1980s, and (2) Bangladeshis beginning in the 1970s. In Niger, export-oriented structural adjustment programs (SAPs) were used to promote globalization and liberalization. In order to encourage self-sufficient growth and economic development, the IMF and World Bank corroborated with the government to eliminate protective tariffs and subsidies. Prior to the implementation of these programs in the 1980s, most members of the Hausa tribe engaged in subsistence farming, tending to a small plot of land and growing just enough food to feed their families. The bulk of food production was considered “women’s work,” while some men generated additional income working in the formal economy. Most families lived in rural areas and villages. Following the implementation of SAPs, some members of the Hausa tribe switched from subsistence farming to producing cash crops for an export market. Food production was still considered “women’s work,” though there was far more food-producing work to be done. Women began to play an increasing role in the formal economy in order to support their families.
Since Bangladesh achieved independence in the 1970s, its economy has become increasingly dependent on the garment trade. In the wake of the war for independence, the government focused on strengthening its export sector through export-oriented policies. As the garment industry emerged, men and women migrated from rural to urban areas. Amongst the elite, landed gentry, these policies gave rise to a new class of entrepreneurial millionaires (Ahmed, 2004, p. 36). Amongst the poor, export-oriented policies meant longer working hours and lower pay. Before these policies had been implemented, men were expected to be the primary breadwinners in their families. Working in garment factories was considered “women’s work,” and thus unsuitable for men to make a living (Rahman, 2013, p. 53). The increasing availability of garment factory jobs produced social tensions as traditional values clashed with economic necessities. Under these conditions, women’s employment in the garment industry became “an essential component of family income” (Ahmed, 2004, p. 43). Communities shifted from producing clothing for themselves (in small-scale cottage-industries and agrarian centers) to producing it in factories for export.
The world of the 21st century is quickly evolving to meet the needs of an increasingly globalized consumer population. With this evolution, globalization and modernization have come to influence developing nations and cultures around the world, whether directly or indirectly, or for better or for worse. As developing countries struggle to keep pace with the changes that come with globalization, international financial institutions such as the IMF and World Bank have responded with a variety of economic reform policies. Since the 1980s, the IMF has promoted structural adjustment programs in Niger to restructure its economy and promote development. In this section, I’ll discuss the influence of export-oriented structural adjustment programs on the people of Niger, focusing on the Hausa tribe. I argue that these programs are directly, though unintentionally, detrimental to women and the rural poor.
In the 1980s, export-oriented SAPs upended the day-to-day lives of poor, rural Hausas. To liberalize and deregulate, governments eliminated food and education subsidies, causing the cost of basic living to skyrocket. The SAPs also required that unprofitable enterprises – mostly state jobs – be eliminated, contributing to rising unemployment. The programs were partially successful, benefitting some sectors of society at the expense of others (Duncan & Howell, 1992, p. 172). Overall, per capita income in Niger declined throughout the 1980s (“Niger: GDP per capita”, n.d.). Though these effects were direct, they were also unintentional. The program benefitted the elite at the expense of women and the rural poor. In his book on the subject, Augustine Agwuele (2012) argues that these programs “created profits for international and local elites but [did] little to reduce poverty within local populations” (p. 250). Landowners and white-collar workers with access to resources and credit were able to take advantage of the new export market in ways that others were not (Gervais, 1995, p. 34). Many of the rural poor became increasingly disenfranchised, lacking the resources to improve their circumstances. Without access to education or credit, export policies for the rural poor meant longer work hours and lower pay.
These same policies impacted women in the Hausa tribe. In her book on Hausa women, Catherine Coles (1991) states that “greater integration into a world economy [has] had many adverse effects on women” (p. 15). Women impacted by SAPs often had to deal with the loss of their husband’s employment (due to downsizing, closing of less productive factories or public sector employment), reduced earnings, increasing female participation in food-production, the rise in food prices, and the loss of government subsidies (for foodstuffs, education, heating fuel, etc.). These women were traditionally responsible for food-production, doing the bulk of farming and cooking for their families (Sadasivam, 1997, p. 640). Because policymakers failed to account for the gendered division of labor, women became responsible for the bulk of food production in a cash-crop based economy, taking on longer working days for lower wages. In response to these policies, women became increasingly active in community organizing, providing social services and infrastructure where government services fell short. Hausa women came to take on a wider variety of roles in the public sphere.
Globalization and modernization have had a profound impact on the Hausas living in Niger. The export-oriented structural adjustment policies implemented in the 1980s sought to open the country to the processes of globalization. The programs dramatically changed the day-to-day lives of Hausa women and the rural poor, requiring a switch from subsistence farming to large scale cash cropping. Though some sectors of the population benefited – particularly Western-educated and landowning elites – many were disadvantaged. Women were burdened with the responsibilities of food-production and saw a reduction in their families’ income. The rural poor, having forgone subsistence farming for wage-labor on cash-cropping farms, struggled to feed their families with their meager wages. Today, increasing awareness of these issues has generated alternative strategies for promoting modernization in Niger. In the future, policies should account for gender and class differences in order to promote sustainable development.
Agwuele, Augustine. (2012). Development, modernism, and modernity in Africa. New York: Taylor & Francis.
Ahmed, F. E. (2004). The rise of the Bangladesh garment industry: Globalization, women workers, and voice. National Women’s Studies Association Journal, 16(2), 34-45.
Coles, C. M. (1991). Hausa women in the twentieth century. Madison, WI.: University of Wisconsin Press.
Duncan, A., & Howell, J. (1992). Structural adjustment & the African farmer. London: Overseas Development Institute in association with J. Currey.
Gervais, M. (1995). Structural adjustment in Niger: Implementations, effects & determining political factors. Review of African Political Economy, 22(63), 27-42.
Niger: GDP per capita. (n.d.). Niger. Retrieved March 17, 2014, from http://www.indexmundi.com/facts/niger/gdp-per-capita
Rahman, Shaidur. (2013). Broken promises of globalization: The case of the Bangladesh garment industry. Lanham: Lexington Books.
Sadasivam, B. (1997). The impact of structural adjustment on women: A governance and human rights agenda. Human Rights Quarterly, 19, 630-665.