The Journal of Modern African Studies


Women Stay on the Farm No More: Changing Patterns of Rural–Urban Migration in Sub-Saharan Africa

Josef Guglera1

a1 Professor of Sociology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, and Entwicklungssoziologie, Universität Bayreuth1

Women could be said to be ‘the second sex in town’ in colonial Africa in that men predominated in the urban centres spawned by the political economy of colonialism. An explanation has to consider both employment and family separation. Although colonial governments, missions, commercial firms, and mines recruited men, it is not clear to what extent this was a matter of preference on the part of the major employers rather than the response of peasant households. Not at issue are the reasons for the latter's integration into the cash economy and the rôle of coercion, whether in the form of forced labour or indirectly through the imposition of tax. But what considerations were borne in mind when households deliberated about which of their members to dispatch? Whatever the part played by both employers and suppliers in determining the composition of the labour supply – and this so far totally neglected topic demands research – the result was that in many, if not all, African colonies, almost as a rule, domestic servants, secretaries, and nurses were male.


1 An earlier version of this short article was presented to the African Studies Association in Chicago, November 1988.