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Women's employment in garment factories in Bangladesh : emancipation or exploitation?

Rahman, M. Arifur


M. Arifur Rahman


Suzanne Clisby


Women's participation in export-oriented industries has been one of the most dominant features in many developing countries since the 1970s. Employment in waged jobs has often been viewed as a means of women's integration into development processes. Research showed that development efforts in Third World countries negatively affected women and displaced them from their productive activities. As such, there was an increasing demand from liberal feminists and women development practitioners to integrate women into development processes through employment generation. They stressed the need for women's access to resources as the way to emancipate them from subordination. Although generation of employment through the establishment of export-oriented industries has given women access to economic resources, their participation in waged labour has given rise to a persistent debate in literature in relation to the issue of their emancipation/exploitation. This ethnographic research examines the implications of waged employment for women participating in export-oriented garment factories in Bangladesh.Within a feminist and broader social science research methodology, this study employs both qualitative and quantitative research approaches and analyses the experiences of women as factory workers, as members of the household and as members of society actively involved in day-to-day interactions with other societal members. The findings of this study reveal that the implications of waged employment for Bangladeshi women are complex and contradictory. Analysis of women's perceptions as factory workers shows that they are exploited on the factory floor in different ways and experience new forms of patriarchal domination beyond their family. Exploration of their perceptions as household members shows that earnings improve their position within the family. Although they often do not control their wages and frequently bear the double burden of productive and reproductive activities, they enjoy autonomy and freedom from familial patriarchal domination to a certain degree. In addition, women's participation in the labour market and their constant presence in the male dominated spaces are incessantly contesting the traditional notions of gender practices and meanings in Bangladeshi society. This situation also influences women to challenge male authority to an extent. Even though the challenges are not widespread, these may create new possibilities for women in society.


Rahman, M. A. (2009). Women's employment in garment factories in Bangladesh : emancipation or exploitation?. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Aug 16, 2011
Publicly Available Date Feb 22, 2023
Keywords Social sciences
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Social Sciences, The University of Hull
Award Date Oct 1, 2009


Thesis (1.7 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2009 Rahman, M. Arifur. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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