Women's home-based income generation as a strategy towards poverty survival : dynamics of the 'khannawalli' (mealmaking) activity of Bombay.
For generations. the "khannawallis" have supplied daily cooked meals for
thousands of single male migrant textile workers who live in appalling
conditions in Bombay. In this way. they have become essential to Bombay's
industrial development and daily functioning. However. the activity remains
"invisible" and very little notice is taken of the women or their work. This
thesis uses the khannawalli activity as a case study to understand the
dynamics and problematics of women's home-based income generation.
By exploring the Marxist and the feminist discourse on the "informal" sector;
women; and poverty. the thesis comes to the conclusion that the best way of
analyse the khannawalli activity is by adopting a "livelihoods system"
approach. In doing so. it suggests that women's home-based income activities
are better understood as strategies towards survival. rather than small
entrepreneurial activities. Understood in this way, the central point of analysis
becomes the access each individual has to the resources and opportunities
necessary to start and maintain an activity.
An analysis based on access is able to draw out social differentiation between
individual operators and their operations. It also enables a comment on
individual relationships. both within the household and outside of it.
Altogether. this develops an understanding of how women's home-based
income activities operate. and what problems they create. Furthermore, by
setting the activity within a historical context. this case study is also able to
look at recent changes that have affected the khannawalli activity. Whilst
some of these changes have been detrimental to the activity, the khannawallis
have proved that it is possible. even for those in the "informal" sector to
address their future by organising themselves. The khannawallis show that
women in poverty are not simply the passive recipients of their destiny.