Money, men and markets: Economic and sexual empowerment of market women in South western Uganda.
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Market trading requires access to cash, independent decision‐making, mobility and social interaction. This study sought to explore whether market work empowers women with respect to spending decisions and negotiation over sex and condom‐use. A semi‐structured questionnaire was administered to 212 market women; and 12 focus group discussions and 52 in‐depths interviews were conducted among market women in southwestern Uganda. Market women reported high levels of independence, mobility, assertiveness and social interaction. Access to cash was not synonymous with control over it, however. Spending decisions were limited by men's ability to selectively withdraw finances for expenditures central to women's concerns including household and children's needs. Trading in markets earns women masculine labels such as kiwagi, characterized variously as independent, rebellious and insubordinate. Earning money does not change expectations of correct behaviour for wives, making it difficult for women to initiate, deny sex or ask for condoms. Independence and income from market work may make it easier for women to enter and exit new sexual relationships. However, unable to protect themselves within partnerships, HIV risk may increase as a result.