Urban Forum

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 113–130 | Cite as

Ingrained Inequalities? Deconstructing Gendered Spaces in the Informal Waste Economy of Nigerian Cities

  • Thaddeus Chidi NzeadibeEmail author
  • Onyanta Adama


As the debates on the definition, scope and applicability of the terms ‘informal sector’ and, in more recent years, the ‘informal economy’ continue, there is a growing interest in the heterogeneity, dynamism and complexity of the sector. This has necessitated a focus on internal differentiation and social relations of power within the informal economy. Gender plays an important role in shaping how men and women participate in the informal economy, while systematic inequalities between women and men are known to pervade many informal livelihoods. Informal Solid Waste Management (ISWM) is a major livelihood activity for the most vulnerable urban groups including women. Using a mix of primary and secondary data sources, this study examined the pattern of gender participation in Nigerian informal waste economy. It notes that the socio-political space in the Nigerian waste economy is dominated by males, to the virtual exclusion of females. Findings indicate that gender differentials and exclusion of women usually manifests, often from primordial socio-cultural influences. Being intimately tied to sheer physicality, waste picking is often characterized by palpable competitions, tensions and conflicts. However, the paper acknowledges the determination of women to overcome the limitations imposed on them by cultural norms and the ability to carve a niche in a male-dominated activity. In a broader context, the paper interrogates ramifications of gendered spaces in the global South. It argues that unequal participation is a corollary of gendered spaces and concludes that without gender equality, the vulnerability of female informal urban-based livelihoods increases.


Gendered spaces Informal economy Nigeria Inequality Waste picking 



This paper was produced within the framework of the 2013 African Guest Researchers Scholarship Programme (AGRP), hosted by Dr. Onyanta Adama of the Urban Dynamics Cluster, the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI), Uppsala, Sweden (September 01-November 29 2013). The authors gratefully acknowledge the NAI and its researchers for providing the facilities and conducive environment for the study, and for insightful comments made during an internal seminar where the manuscript was first presented. Authors are also grateful to Uchenna Ochege of University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria for cartographic assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of NigeriaNsukkaNigeria
  2. 2.The Nordic Africa InstituteUppsalaSweden

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