Dignity and Daily Bread: New Forms of Economic Organising among Poor Women in the Third World and the First

By Sheila Rowbotham; Swasti Mitter | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

The conditions and organisational activities of women in Free Trade Zones

Malaysia, Philippines and Sri Lanka, 1970-1990

Kumudhini Rosa


ABSTRACT

The creation of Free Trade Zones from the 1970s has generated much analysis and controversy, particularly in relation to their consequences for the young women workers they have tended to employ.

They presented problems for earlier forms of labour militancy and have sometimes appeared to be well-nigh impossible to organise.

Kumudhini Rosa's approach breaks new ground by looking at a whole range of organisational forms which are not part of established structures and which link home and workplace.

She examines the process by which a new labourforce has been createdand directs attention to a crucial question which has been neglected. How does this new kind of Third World woman see herself and her situation?

The Free Trade Zones do not constitute static forms of production. Shifts in investment policies means they are in the process of changing. Understanding of their economic development is inseparably linked to comprehending the nature of the social awareness they have brought to a new generation of workers, many of whom came straight from a rural setting.


INTRODUCTION

The entry of large numbers of women into the Free Trade Zones' (FTZs) labour force, as a result of the restructuring of capital in the late 1960s, is of considerable economic and social significance. Owing to the setting up of FTZs, a new stratum was added to the already existing and often organised workforce. This new layer of workers is mainly composed of young women, of whom a significant percentage are single and have limited experience in waged employment. In many places the women came from rural areas and lived either within the FTZ compounds or within close access to the zone, in boarding houses. Within these 'industrial zones' various firms are encouraged to set up factories which produce for the world market. Special authorities are granted the responsibility for all

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