Women’s expected roles have undergone extraordinary change over the last century. Was the main factor behind this shift the right to vote, employment outside the home, the invention of the washing machine, girls’ education, new forms of contraception, access to information or the women’s movement? The answer of course is all of the above and more. In a complex system full of feedback loops and surprises, each of these factors has both shaped and been shaped by evolving norms on women’s roles.
Globalization is one such driver of change. At 7.30 am every morning, the streets of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, light up as a Technicolor tide of young women in vivid saris emerge from the slums en route to the many mouldering factories that line the streets of the city. The women remain there until well into the night, cutting and stitching clothes for export.
Observing thousands of these laughing, engaged and eager women on the move, I struggled to maintain my activist’s disapproval of globalization and its ‘exploitation’ of cheap labour. Subsequent conversations in their shantytown huts confirmed how highly prized jobs in the garment factories were. The women certainly complained about the low wages, long hours and workplace dangers affecting millions of women in Bangladesh’s garment industry. But they also insisted that earning an income brings a redistribution of……..
The post Norms, Gender and Power
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