DSA2016: Politics in Development
- William Monteith (Queen Mary University of London) email
- Laura Camfield (University of East Anglia) email
Women's participation in urban labour markets has been shown to be more constrained and less profitable than men's (Harriss-White 2010; Wallman 1996). This panel explores the ways in which women have responded to the vagaries of urban life by engaging in new patterns of work and welfare.
Women's participation in urban labour markets has been shown to be more constrained and less profitable than men's due to the endurance of gendered divisions of domestic labour, and norms that place less value on paid women's work (Harriss-White 2010; Wallman 1996). Gendered differences in the experience of work have arguably been magnified in recent years by increasing rates of family breakdown and the rising cost of education and healthcare in many cities in the global south (Locke et al. 2013; Tripp 2012). Nevertheless, women continue to enter the urban informal sector in ever-greater numbers.
This panel investigates the evolving role of work and welfare in the lives of women in rapidly changing urban contexts. In particular, it explores the changing composition and function of voluntary associations - such as social groups, savings rounds and burial societies - in responding to the vagaries of urban life. We welcome contributions from across the disciplines that speak to debates on gendered experiences of work and welfare in cities of the global south.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Getting on by getting along: social and material struggles among female entrepreneurs in postcolonial Kampala
Large numbers of young women have entered the urban informal economy in Uganda since the 1970s. This paper explores the ways in which female entrepreneurs navigate a range of social and economic challenges in order make a living in Kampala.
The work of women in urban Uganda has been historically restricted by colonial discourses of the 'town woman' and malaya (prostitute) (Davis 2000). However, large numbers of young women have entered the urban informal economy since the 1970s, driven by increasing rates of marital breakdown and rising costs of healthcare and education (Tripp 2012). Drawing upon a household survey, a panel of life history interviews and an ethnographic case study, this paper explores the ways in which female entrepreneurs in Kampala navigate a range of social and economic challenges in order make a living. Particular emphasis is given to the changing role of voluntary associations - such as savings groups and burial societies - in responding to increasing rates of marital breakdown. The paper draws upon the testimonies of a number of female workers who separated before and during the course of the life history panel.
Women and Casual Employment in the Bangladesh Readymade Garment Industry
This paper will explore the origins, incidence, and impact of women’s casual work in the Bangladesh RMG industry and how casual employment has changed in the aftermath of the 2013 tragedy.
The Readymade garment (RMG) industry plays a key role in Bangladesh's economy, accounting for 80 percent of export earnings and employing 4 million workers, most of whom are women. A significant number of these workers in a seemingly formal industry are actually "casual" workers. There can be advantages to casual work, particularly for women, who can more directly attend to domestic responsibilities and enjoy social freedoms before or during marriage. However, these workers often lack employment contracts, job security, and a voice in improving their wages and advocating for safety improvements. The Rana Plaza tragedy—the worst garment accident in history—captured worldwide attention. Multinational agreements and labor law amendments were created to improve safety, security, wages, and organizing potential for workers. Thus far change has been inconsistent, with subcontracted factories struggling to keep up with required changes. The 2013 Labour Act made trade union registration easier and stipulated a minimum percentage of women members in union executive committees yet there is evidence that anti-union action continues. This paper will explore the origins, incidence, and impact of women's casual work in the RMG industry and how women's casual employment has changed in the aftermath of the 2013 Rana Plaza tragedy.
'Now that I have money, my father loves me': Social relationships, money, and violence in the lives of female sex workers in Eastern India
This paper explores the role of ‘money’ within social relationships and experiences of violence, in the lives of female sex workers (FSWs) from Eastern India. It is based on qualitative data with former and present FSWs in and around Kolkata, and villages in a southern district of the state of West Bengal.
Discussions on 'money from sex work' in India have tended to focus on comparing sex-working income with income from other forms of unregulated work - often to justify why women would want to enter sex work over domestic work, work in factories, etc. In this paper, I broaden these discussion, by exploring the ways in which financial earnings from sex work impact these women's social relationships with family (natal and marital), peers, employers (madames and pimps), customers, and romantic partners. Through an analysis of ethnographic vignettes, I discuss ways in which the possession of money, and access to it (or lack thereof) affects (i)present and past experiences of violence, (ii) social, financial and emotional expectations within social relationships, and (iii) self-worth for FSWs. Additionally, I explore the role of NGOs as providers, or managers of money and financial resources within these women's lives and social relationships.
This paper is based on my PhD research on the lives of female sex workers (FWSs) in Eastern India. My research explores FSWs' experiences of, and negotiations with 'everyday' violence, as they navigate social relationships within their personal and professional lives. It brings together qualitative data in the form of 'life-stories' of present, full and part-time sex workers across two red-light areas in the city of Kolkata, 'rescued' sex workers in a southern suburb of the city, and women who were formerly engaged in sex work and have returned to their rural communities, in the South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, under varying circumstances.
Young, male and volunteering: changes in the nature of unpaid labour in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Although historically unpaid and volunteer labour has often been undertaken by women, in Dar es Salaam there appear to be new and emerging patterns of young male volunteerism. This paper explores what this says about gendered divisions of labour in a rapidly changing urban context.
Contrary to historical patterns of the gendered division of labour my research with two grass-roots community organisations in Dar es Salaam found them to be run by young male volunteers. I reflect upon the differences between this work and the work of other voluntary organisations such as savings co-operatives, as well as upon demographic differences between groups. Dar es Salaam is a rapidly growing mega-city in Tanzania; a country where the average age is just under eighteen. I suggest that greater exposure to the global narratives of international NGOs influence younger generations much more so than older ones, as well as subtly shifting gendered notions of work, social acceptability, power and status. I also suggest that there are hints of men taking on certain tasks that may traditionally be assigned to women, such as cooking and cleaning within organisations as well as beginning to take on some emotional labour, particularly in instances where young men work directly with (even) younger people and see themselves in paternal or protective roles. Although shifting gendered divisions of labour could tentatively be considered positive; men willing to take on women's work in certain contexts does not guarantee women the same freedom the other way around. I explore what these changes mean for the gendered division of unpaid labour in a rapidly changing urban context.
Class Distinctions in Women's Experiences of Achieving a Work-Life Balance: Paid Domestic Workers and their Employers in Lagos, Nigeria
Drawing on research with female domestic workers and employers in Lagos, Nigeria, this paper looks at women of different class backgrounds experiences of achieving a work-life balance.
Drawing on research with low-class female domestic workers and middle- to upper-class female employers in Lagos, Nigeria, this paper looks at women of different class backgrounds experiences of achieving a work-life balance. Specifically it explores the ways in which female employers are able to combine their work and career development with childcare, housekeeping, leisure, personal and social relationships by relying on 'others' - usually lower class domestic workers. At the same time, the attitudes and actions of employers support the underlying assumption that the domestic worker should mainly work and that entitlement to any other identity is not for them. Domestic employees are often expected to neglect their own care or leisure responsibilities in order to provide undivided attention to that of the employing household. This, coupled with the current unregulated status of this occupation in Nigeria and a context where the state does not fully guarantee workers' rights in areas such as maternity leave and working hours, constrains female domestic workers' attempts to organise or attend to their private and/or family concerns. As such, domestic workers have to juggle work commitments with family and domestic responsibilities, which are made even more difficult by their low-income status in an occupation that lacks decent labour conditions. Overall, the paper explores what work-life balance looks like for these two different groups of women based on an intersection of their gender with their class status.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.