Managing markets to reduce gender bias and maximize community benefits

“It is crucial that local governments ensure markets are safe spaces for women.

Many marketplace vendors are women. Marketplaces offer women the opportunity to advance their socioeconomic status, protect their livelihoods and improve overall well-being. But the gender bias built into markets’ organizational structure and management culture impedes women from taking these opportunities. In fact, local marketplaces can fail to even ensure women’s safety. Women vendors are more likely to face threats, extortion, theft of their earnings, and violent displacement from their sites. Market managers may harass them for taxes and charge double, forcing them to move away and take up another market position. Women also experience more sexual harassment and violence.

Marketplaces are often managed by local governments, comprised of elected leaders who are most often men, and frequently run by male local government employees. If their main concern is performance, measured by the fees and taxes they collect, the community may lose out on many other benefits from the market that go beyond revenue generation. Not only that, a new market may reinforce systemic social inequalities, with implications for who benefits—and who is harmed—by the new project.

The multiple benefits that markets provide to the community include, but are not limited to:

  • Childcare: Vendors leave their children in the care of other vendors when they need to leave the market to complete other business.
  • Socializing: Vendors are able to meet family members and friends at markets as they sell their produce.
  • Money lending: Vendors are able to lend and borrow small funds from other vendors and repay them once produce is sold, or to barter produce or services to make repayments.

When planning and designing a new market—or any asset—governments should consult a variety of stakeholders (for example, vendors, social workers, health workers) in a bottom-up process. Community engagement can help put in place mechanisms to ensure that when the new asset goes into operation, benefits to the community are maximized and potential harms minimized.”


One of our contributions to the recently published United Nations’ Handbook:

“Managing Infrastructure Assets for Sustainable Development: A Handbook for Local and National Governments” edited by Navid Hanif, Caroline Lombardo, Daniel Platz and Claire Chan from United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and by Jaffer Machano, Dmitry Pozhidaev and Suresh Balakrishnan from the United Nations Capital Development Fund.

(Download your copy here)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

K McGovern & Associates