Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Leisure and Recreation among Women of Selected Hill-Farming Families in Bangledesh

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Leisure and Recreation among Women of Selected Hill-Farming Families in Bangledesh

Article excerpt


This paper reports on the leisure experience among women of some desperately poor, hill-farming families in southeastern Bangladesh. Although there have been a considerable number of studies on rural women in Bangladesh1, especially on women in agriculture, research on these women's leisure experience has been remarkably absent. Leisure among rural women in Bangladesh is virtually an unexplored field of study. My aim in this paper is to present some empirical findings on the leisure experience of women in selected hill-farming households with the hope of instigating future research on this topic. An understanding of these women's experience of leisure will enhance our understanding of leisure in general, and gender and leisure specifically.

I argue that despite the abject poverty, hard work, and everyday struggle involved in a subsistence-oriented life style, women have their own ways of enjoying leisure and recreation. They have an amazing capacity to turn some of their routine work into avenues of recreation, and thereby, transform some of the most mundane and dry work into rewarding leisure experience. This finding does not necessarily mean that there is no reason for concern about the constraints with which women live. However, what could or should be done is a topic beyond the scope of this article.

In presenting the study the methodology is described first. This is followed by an empirical analysis of the forms and nature of recreation and leisure among the women in the case study area. Then the limits of a conventional leisure perspective which views leisure as "free time" or "freely chosen activity" are discussed in the context of rural women's leisure experience in Bangladesh. Finally, there is a brief analysis of the practical constraints on leisure faced by these women, which is followed by the conclusions.

The Case and the Methodology

The field work for the study was based on two community forestry project areas called Betagi and Pomora, located in Rangunia Thana2 (subdistrict) of the District of Chittagong situated in the southeastern hilly region of Bangladesh. The government has rehabilitated 82 families in Betagi and 152 families in Pomora who were previously landless and destitute. Prior to the rehabilitation, the average annual income was estimated to be Takas 13,800 in Betagi and 15,210 in Pomora. Through rehabilitation, each family has been allotted 1.62 hectares of public hill lands. The participating families mainly practice agro-forestry to develop the lands. The locality belongs to the agro-ecological zone of Eastern Hills of Bangladesh. The hills occupy about 50% steep slopes, 20% very steep slopes, and the rest (30%) is sloping land. Annual temperature varies from 13c to 33c and rainfall ranges between 2,500 mm to 3,000 mm (Rahman, n.d., p.2).

Data were collected as part of doctoral research between January 1994 and August 1994 through a field survey. For the qualitative information, the study primarily relied on the tool of "personal observation" supplemented by informal, unstructured interviews. Observation is claimed to be "basic to all scientific enquiries" (Isokun, 1985, p. 99). This method is "particularly appropriate when high degree of analytical content is required" (Casley & Lury, 1987, p. 64). Bell (1987) also noted that "Direct observation may be more reliable than what people say in many instances" (p. 88). However, "complete participation" (Nachmias & Nachmias, 1992, p. 273) or "full integration into the society being studied" (Bell, 1987, p. 7) did not seem practical for this study. Further, as Nachmias and Nachmias (1992, p. 275) argued, complete participation poses some major methodological problems:

First, observers may become so self-conscious about revealing their trueselves that they would be handicapped when attempting to perform convincingly a pretended role. Or they may . . . incorporate the pretended role into their selfconception and lose the research perspective. …

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