From Individual to Collective Power
among the Export Sector Workers
IDS WORKING PAPER
Volume 2012 No 389
The Poverty and Inequality research cluster, part of the Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction team at IDS, produces research on poverty, inequality and wellbeing. Our research challenges orthodox views on the nature of poverty, how poverty is understood and how policy can best accelerate poverty reduction. Our work focuses on poverty and wellbeing through the lens of equity and inequality. Poverty is not only about 'poor' people but also about the social and economic inequalities that compound and reproduce poverty. Email: email@example.com
Web: www.ids.ac.uk/research-teams/vulnerability-and-poverty-reduction-team/researchthemes/ poverty-inequality-and-wellbeing
The Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction (VPR) Team aims to construct dynamic and multidimensional perspectives on vulnerability and poverty in order to transform thinking, policy and practice.
The VPR team produces working papers on social protection; conflict, violence and development; and poverty and inequality. Follow this link to view a full list of publications: www.ids.ac.uk/go/research-teams/vulnerability-and-poverty-reduction-team Women’s Empowerment Revisited: From Individual to Collective Power among the Export Sector Workers of Bangladesh Naomi Hossain
IDS Working Paper 389
First published by the Institute of Development Studies in March 2012 © Institute of Development Studies 2012
ISSN: 2040-0209 ISBN: 978-1-78118-046-4
A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library. All rights reserved. Reproduction, copy, transmission, or translation of any part of this publication may be made only under the following conditions:
• with the prior permission of the publisher; or
• with a licence from the Copyright Licensing Agency Ltd., 90 Tottenham Court Road, London W1P 9HE, UK,
or from another national licensing agency; or
• under the terms set out below.
This publication is copyright, but may be reproduced by any method without fee for teaching or nonprofit purposes, but not for resale. Formal permission is required for all such uses, but normally will be granted immediately. For copying in any other circumstances, or for re-use in other publications, or for translation or adaptation, prior written permission must be obtained from the publisher and a fee may be payable.
Communications Unit, Institute of Development Studies, Brighton BN1 9RE, UK Tel: +44 (0) 1273 915637 Fax: +44 (0) 1273 621202
IDS is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (No. 877338) 3
Women’s Empowerment Revisited: From Individual to Collective Power among the Export Sector Workers of Bangladesh
Bangladesh has become known as something of a success in advancing gender equality since the 1990s. There have been rapid gains in a number of social and economic domains, yet by most objective standards the current condition and status of women and girls within Bangladeshi society remain low. Rapid progress has come about under conditions of mass poverty and interlocking forms of social disadvantage, political instability and underdevelopment, overlain with persistent ‘classic’ forms of patriarchy. Mass employment of women and girls in the country’s flagship export sector – the readymade garments (RMG) sector – has been one of the more visible and prominent changes in women’s lives since its late 1970s’ introduction.
Whether and the extent to which RMG or garments employment has changed the lives of women workers for the better has been the subject of much debate, and the research and analysis it has generated offers valuable insights into the processes of economic and social empowerment for poor women in low income developing countries....