The Ready-Made Garments Industry in Bangladesh: A Means to Reducing Gender-Based Social Exclusion of Women?

By Khosla, Nidhi | Journal of International Women's Studies, September 2009 | Go to article overview

The Ready-Made Garments Industry in Bangladesh: A Means to Reducing Gender-Based Social Exclusion of Women?


Khosla, Nidhi, Journal of International Women's Studies


Abstract

Women in Bangladesh have traditionally been excluded from taking part in social, political and economic activities by means of institutions such as the purdah (veil). However, the rise of the ready-made garments industry in Bangladesh since the 1970s has provided women with opportunities to work outside the home for wages. This change coincided with changes such as a decline in the rural sector, increased emphasis on girls' education and campaigns to improve women's health and reduce fertility. As a result of these changes, the social exclusion of women has reduced considerably. This paper analyses existing literature on women's employment in the ready-made garments industry in Bangladesh using a social exclusion framework. It finds that the impact of the industry on women's exclusion is mixed. Women have greater economic independence, respect, social standing and "voice" than before. However, harassment and exploitation persists. Given the important changes that this industry is helping to bring into women's lives, stakeholders should focus attention on making the industry a more humane and sustainable option for women.

Keywords: gender-based social exclusion, Bangladesh, garments industry

Introduction

Muslim women in Bangladesh have traditionally been excluded from taking part in social, political and economic activities on the basis of the institution of purdah which mandates women's seclusion from the society at large. However, many changes have happened in the lives of women in Bangladesh with the advent of the ready-made garments industry, that started in the country in the late 1970s (Kabeer & Mahmud, 2004). The industry employs primarily women workers( about 1.8 million), though supervisors are largely male (Kabeer & Mahmud, 2004). The social changes include greater acceptance of women's employment, increased participation of women in decision-making in the house and in decisions around childbearing and a reduction in fertility, among others. These changes have coincided with other changes such as a decline in the rural sector and high levels of rural poverty (both of which have pushed women to seek employment in urban areas) and an increased emphasis on girls' education and on women's health as a result of advocacy by NGO (non-government organization) and government programmes.

Since the exclusion faced by women in Bangladeshi society is multi-dimensional, the use of a social exclusion framework that investigates the social, political and economic dimension of women's exclusion, is appropriate. The analysis in this paper is based on the existing peer-reviewed as well as "grey" literature in this field.

The paper asserts that the overall impact of the ready-made garments industry on women's lives is mixed. On the positive side, the industry offers women workers advantages not offered by the other limited and rather arduous avenues of employment available to women such as stone crushing, agricultural labour and paid domestic work(Kabeer, 2004). On the negative side, there is gender inequality and sexual exploitation (Siddiqi, 2003) in this industry. It is therefore important to develop a contextualized understanding of Bangladeshi society, economy and the role and position of women in Bangladeshi society in order to fully appreciate the benefits the ready-made garments industry offers to women, despite its exploitative conditions. The analysis also suggests that policies should be directed towards addressing the specific problems women workers face, in order to make the ready-made garments industry a more humane and sustainable option for women, and a vehicle for change.

Structure of the paper

The section below provides a brief overview of the social exclusion framework, followed by a description of women's social exclusion in Bangladesh. This is followed by a brief description of the important features of the ready-made garments industry in Bangladesh and the key literature on this industry. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Ready-Made Garments Industry in Bangladesh: A Means to Reducing Gender-Based Social Exclusion of Women?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.