Gender, conflict and peacebuilding in informal local markets in Aba, Southeastern Nigeria
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This study explores how market women perceive and experience peace and conflict in informal local markets in Southeastern Nigeria. The study seeks to enrich the understanding of gender and peacebuilding in ‘local’ contexts by exploring market women’s peacebuilding practices and how they negotiate the structures that can hinder this experience. Examining market women’s contextual understanding of peace and conflict in informal local markets also exposes the varied ways in which the informal sector embeds structures of injustice on the one hand and provides a space for resilience and agency on the other hand. Through a feminist and Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) framework, the study demonstrates how women’s survival strategies developed to meet their basic needs contribute to the understanding of positive and feminist peacebuilding in Africa. Feminist perspectives are wide-ranging; however, many feminists have argued that patriarchal gender norms strengthen women’s marginalization in all spheres, in addition to excluding women’s experience from peacebuilding literature. African feminist perspectives contextualize the challenges African women encounter and emphasize the processes they undertake to address these issues. Generally, PACS and feminist scholarship address the structures that can cause inequality and the necessary conditions for positive peace experiences. The primary data source used in this study was in-depth semi-structured interviews. The participants were fifteen market women drawn from seven different markets in Aba, Abia State, Southeastern Nigeria. The study findings reveal two types of pervasive conflict in informal local markets, interpersonal conflict between traders over customer rivalry and structural conflict between traders and market authorities and state officials caused by perceived unjust policies, high levies and inadequate infrastructures in the market environments. The study findings also reveal that market women develop strategies to meet their basic needs, and these practices contribute to peaceful relations in the markets. The provision of adequate infrastructures and financial support from the government at all levels can help to alleviate the devastation that may arise due to potential global and local crises and to decrease the possibilities of traders suffering from both direct and indirect forms of violence in their marketplaces.