Rural Women at Work: Strategies for Development in South Asia

By Ruth B. Dixon | Go to book overview

4
PRODUCT SELECTION AND FUNDING

If they are to promote genuine rural development, employment projects for rural women should be capable of becoming self-sustaining in the space of, say, three to five years. Although I do not want to belabor the obvious, there is little value in beginning a program that is likely to collapse as soon as the original organizers or funding sources pull out. It is probably better to attempt nothing rather than to raise women's hopes of earning a living only to abandon them later on to failure.

Disillusionment, unfortunately, is the outcome of a number of welfare- oriented training programs that teach rural women handicrafts, sewing, or weaving. After perhaps a year's training and production in a workshop, the women are turned out on their own, only to find that they frequently cannot make a living from their work.1 Often they cannot afford to buy a loom or a sewing machine and are reduced to turning out handmade garments which cannot possibly compete in quality or quantity with those made by local tailors or manufacturers.2 Many training programs are really only sheltered workshops, where women spend their days sewing or embroidering on products for which there is no real market, their work being subsidized by donations from well-meaning women's organizations, voluntary associations, or international agencies.3 The women receive very low wages and little, if any, developmental training (for example, no

____________________
1
Women in a large Bangladesh training program follow up nine months' training with nine months in a production workshop, a process that is intended to provide the intermediate step to self- or wage-employment. For a more detailed discussion, see the National Board of Bangladesh Women's Rehabilitation Programme study ( 1974, pp. 21-22).
2
This situation appeared to be the characteristic result of the training programs for rural women sponsored by the Nepal Women's Organization, for example.
3
The phrase sheltered workshops is derived from Adrienne Germain's observations of many crafts programs in South Asia. The following passage is quoted with permission from a memo to the Ford Foundation from Adrienne Germain (append. A, p. 3): "They are a source of employment for women who do not participate in their organization and management and who, usually, do not receive any other benefit (e.g., functional education). In some cases the programs are or can be exploitative in at least two ways: (a) products are given away to friends, relatives, etc. by program organizers; (b) women are not well enough trained to produce salable items on their own despite promises to the contrary."

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Rural Women at Work: Strategies for Development in South Asia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables and Figures ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Preface xv
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Creating Nonagricultural Employment for Rural Women 12
  • Conclusions 40
  • 3 - Employment for Rural Women-- Five Programs 42
  • Conclusions 71
  • 4 - Product Selection and Funding 75
  • Conclusions 103
  • 5 - Overcoming Cultural and Structural Obstacles in the Recruitment of Women Workers 105
  • Conclusions 134
  • 6 - The Social Structure of the Workplace 138
  • Conclusions 164
  • 7 - Policy Conclusions 167
  • Appendix: Research Issues in Female Employment 178
  • References 210
  • Index 223
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