Social Capital as a Coping Mechanism for Women Small Scale Traders in the Informal Economy in Nairobi, Kenya
Daniel Muia, Anne Kamau, Paul Kamau, Harun Baiya, Jane Ndung’u

Gender relations are increasingly being transformed in the informal urban economy in Kenya. Women small scale traders (WSSTs) have had to cope by neither relying on their spouses as traditionally expected nor on profit maximisation. This paper argues that social capital is at the core of WSSTs business operation as their networks are sources of social support as well as capital and credit. WSSTs control their resources irrespective of their marital status. This paper is based on primary data collected from 398 WSSTs in five urban informal settlements in Nairobi between June and August 2015 using a mixed method approach. The study found that access to credit for WSSTs was a major handicap as the requirements by the credit institutions available were too stringent for small businesses due to requirement for guarantee and collaterals. WSSTs resorted to forming groups (merry go round or chamas (67.5%), women groups (27%) and associations including SACCOs (6%).) so that, besides other benefits, including networking, they could get financial credit. While many of these groups are not registered, they are mainly involved in giving loans and credit besides offering welfare support to their members. The spouses/partners have no say in the businesses. This Paper concludes that WSSTs belong to groups (chama) for social support and also financial support. They do not revert to their spouses/partners for support. The membership of the chama serves as guarantors for WSSTs to access credit. Thus interventions targeting WSSTs should have focus on the social capital development mechanisms as entry point. Equally the emerging gender dynamics of women having full control of their resources needs to be appreciated as an important turning point in gender relations and rights.

Full Text: PDF     DOI: 10.15640/jswhr.v6n1a3