chapter  3
26 Pages

Whose human security? Gender, neoliberalism and the informal economy in sub- Saharan Africa


Although the notion of security has been redefined as a new concept that counters nationalist and militarist interpretations, it remains a male-centered view of security, which has failed to deal with the security issues in women’s lives. In SSA, these insecurities include the persistence of violence against women in both private and public spheres that includes unabated domestic and gender-based violence; the lack of sexual and reproductive rights; and economic violence, which is manifested in the continuing violation of women’s economic rights. The ways in which such insecurities affect women are exemplified by the increasing or stagnant maternal mortality rates in most SSA countries, the feminization of poverty and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Another important feature of the new human security concept is that it seeks to build on and enhance human rights and development frameworks. As such, it locates the human security agenda within prevailing development frameworks, that is, the neoliberal framework, which has been a key factor in increasing poverty and inequalities between and within countries, as well as along class and gender lines (a discussion surrounding the definition and interpretations of “neoliberalism” will follow in the next section). Moreover, the human security concept is affected by the limitations of the human rights framework, due to the liberal tradition that it has inherited. With regard to SSA countries, the major problem with this liberal legacy is the failure to address economic powerlessness in all its dimensions, particularly in relation to capitalism, colonialism and imperialism. As noted by Makau Mutua,

the UDHR-the single most important human rights document-sanctions the right to private property.How plausible is a document that calls itself a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations” if it does not recognize that at its writing the bulk of the global South was under European colonial rule and subject to the vilest economic exploitation by the merchants of capital?