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Development in Rural Bangladesh: A Critical Ethnography

JAHAN, ISHRAT (2015) Development in Rural Bangladesh: A Critical Ethnography. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis contests the scope of the Women in Development (WID) perspective in understanding women's position in rural Bangladesh. It critically investigates how women perceive work and examines the effects of paid work on their lives. It discusses local women's engagement with globalization, modernization and neo-liberal capitalism, manifested in the proliferation of garment factories, modern farming, labour migration and microcredit interventions. The central question is whether, being influenced by such external forces, participation in paid work brings benefits to all women. The thesis examines how local women's understanding of work and the good life is not uniform but varies according to age, and social status (i.e. class and caste). It also highlights that by failing to recognize women's multiple interpretations of these issues, WID policies, such as the National Women’s Policy of Bangladesh (2011), may adversely affect the lives of some poor as well as affluent women.
It is common for many poor, and some affluent women in riverine char land villages to participate in paid work along with doing household chores. They do not think of such work as an expression of gender equality, but as 'cooperation' necessary for the welfare, even the basic survival of their households. This thesis argues that by encouraging poor women to take part in income earning work, the National Women’s Policy of Bangladesh (2011), guided by the WID perspective, often increases women's daily burden albeit they benefit some women. Also, earning an income does not always improve women’s status within their households and the wider community.
Microcredit organizations are part of women’s engagement in income generating activities. Though they encourage poor women to become entrepreneurs, not all women possess the necessary skills to be successful. They overlook that some poor women are involved in small enterprises without credit interventions, and participate in enterprising work as part of their household responsibilities. By focusing on the profit making demands of microcredit agencies, the thesis argues for the attention to the varied effects that access to microcredit and participation in market oriented enterprising work have on women. In a similar vein, it highlights how women's experiences of labour migration, both local and overseas, are also varied and have ambiguous impacts on women’s lives. While for some women it is a source of social mobility, increased independence and improved lifestyle, for others it causes conflict, exploitation and loss of honour.
The thesis questions the potential of the economic growth model of development, modeled after the Western capitalism and identifies accommodation of the variation of women’s understanding of work and the good life as one of the main challenges for further women’s development. It stresses the need to acknowledge women’s multiple realities and their own interpretations of being in the world to ensure improvements in their lives.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:women, development, indigenous knowledge, Bangladesh, rural
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Anthropology, Department of
Thesis Date:2015
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:19 Feb 2016 12:49

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