Educational work with factory women in Malaysia
Most women workers' education focuses on women's objective-material situation namely employment conditions and rights as workers. Hence, consciousness-raising on exploitation and the importance of workers unity are the usual agendas. Women's subjectivities, their individual personally lived experiences are rarely taken on board. Even in situations where gender agendas are covered, their unspoken thoughts, repressed feelings and pains, especially the personally felt emotional subordination tend to be overlooked. This thesis explores how silenced experiences of emotional subordination, powerlessness and inferiority can be taken on board in and as educational work with factory women. Guided by principles of participatory research and feminist research I used multiple methods to review current and past educational work with factory women in Malaysia, to explore a way of approaching and doing educational work that is empowering for factory women and that is based on their lived experiences. Specifically the research (i) undertook a historical and critical review of women workers education in Malaysia and identified the neglected dimensions 1 (ii) probed the lived gendered experiences of factory women, and (iii) evolved a pedagogy that can evoke and reconstitute silenced experiences of emotional subordination. Storying, as a narrative methodology for negotiating and constructing meaning from experience (and practice) frames the epistemological and methodological approach to this study. The study established that although emotional suffering is only one dimension of factory women's lived experiences and one dimension of women's subordination, it is however, a critical area to address in educational work concerned with factory women's empowerment, given the pervasiveness of debilitating emotional subjectivities amongst them. Story-telling-sharing in small groups was found to be effective in facilitating the constructive unfolding of differences and commonalities while also fostering an emotionally safe space in which women can rebuild self-esteem and confidence and discover solidarity. Indeed, story-telling-sharing that incorporates processes of reflective talking and making sense is the educational method par excellence. It commences with lived experiences and experienced feelings to reconstitute women's subjectivities. These findings bring significant insights to the pedagogy and content of educational work with women on the global assembly line, and for women and workers' education in general.