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Title: 'In the union I found myself' : the impact of collectivization of informal economy women workers on gender relations within the home
Author: Kagal, Neha
ISNI:       0000 0004 7431 2066
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2017
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This research is an attempt to engage with women workers in the informal economy in India, their membership to labour organizations and its consequent impact on gender relations within the home. In particular the research focuses on Dalit women who belong to a trade union of wastepickers in Pune, India. Situating the study of intra-household gender relations within a bargaining framework, the thesis proposes that in addition to the focus on improving women's ability to bargain for better treatment within their homes, women's willingness to bargain must also be taken into account. Through in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with more than one hundred wastepickers and their spouses, the study found that membership to a trade union of wastepickers, has provided women three distinct (and interrelated) pathways for change. The first is the impact of material resources in improving women's fall-back positions. The second pathway draws attention to possible changes in women's understandings of self due to the cognitive resources they have access to within the union. The third pathway highlights the role of the union in expanding women's identities and relational networks upon which they base their sense of belonging. I argue that it is the combination of the material, cognitive and relational pathways that improve women's ability and willingness to challenge inequality within the home. The study found that transformations within the home were most visible in the areas of domestic violence, distribution of household chores, and financial accountability of husbands. However it was the nature of women's engagement with the union that determined the extent of intra-household change, and also the ways in which women bargained for better treatment. =Active members', i.e. women who were regular and consistent in their participation in the union, were able to replace tactical bargaining with strategic actions. It was the use of these strategies that enabled =active' wastepickers to bring about long-term, transformative changes in intra-household gender relations. Critical to these strategies was the role men played in facilitating or stalling processes of change. This research found that although initially men resisted and resented their wives participation in the union, it also provided them with opportunities to re-define themselves, and expand their identities. This redefinition of masculinity combined with new privileges that men secured through the union made men more amenable to changes in intra-household gender relations.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral