Education and women’s employment: a study of their status and input in the informal sector in Sierra Leone

Type Report
Title Education and women’s employment: a study of their status and input in the informal sector in Sierra Leone
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2010
URL and Women Employment in Sierra Leone.pdf
Women’s presence in the informal sector is so conspicuous that questions are raised
concerning their over representation in the sector.
The MASK research group undertook to investigate why there are more women than
men in this sector in Sierra Leone, what their status and input into the sector are and to
ascertain whether their level of educational attainment has any influence on their
employment in the sector.
To undertake the investigation, two research instruments utilized were the questionnaire
and focus group discussion guide. Two regions in the country renowned for informal
sector activities were identified for the study; these were Makeni in the Northern Province
and Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone, in the Western Area. Twenty research
assistants were trained to carry out the data collection. Since the majority of respondents
were illiterate, the research assistants had to fill in the questionnaires for them. Focus
group discussions were also conducted.
The study was undertaken in order to have an insight into the educational and other
needs of these women since their conditions seemed to remain relatively unchanged in
spite of their income generating endeavours. Findings of this research would inform
appropriate interventions in terms of raising the status of the women and improving on
their businesses.
The outcome of the investigations showed that the informal sector is a generous
employer of women emphasizing neither educational attainment nor skill. Because of the
ease of entry women enter with very minimal capital and cling on to low cost items
making very meager gains. They live from ‘hand to mouth’; that is, they survive on their
daily gains.
The research concluded that the level of women’s education influences their participation
in the informal sector, that many of these women lack special skills and that they are
operating on very limited capital. They also suffer discrimination from law enforcing
personnel and financing institutions. Several recommendations were put forward
regarding the improvement of the women’s educational status, provision of the initial
capital, provision of training facilities and market sites for them.

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