Unequal Payment for the Women Labor of Bangladesh

Mostafa Shabuj:

The stories we listen to and read on the newspapers, magazines or social media about oppression, injustice, inequality, gender disparity, patriarchy, hegemony discrimination, abusing, torturing, beating, harassing women on the running vehicles, raping in the educational institutions, most of all come from cities or urban life.

Talking only about the problems, equal rights, and discrimination of urban women do not articulate feminism. It’s the women, living in a remote countryside are remained remote from our mainstream feminism. The city’s women are mostly educated and somehow aware about their rights but those women, living in a village don’t even know how they are being exploited by their own family members, relatives and villagers.

The economy of Bangladesh is dependable on its agriculture. Consequently, women labour is a common phenomenon in village labour market of Bangladesh. Women labour in a village is very cheap than the male labour, and our people are not concern regarding women’s daily wage.

Women are getting half payment than a man in the countryside of Bangladesh. A male labour usually earns 300 takas per day as a day labour, but a women labour gets 100-150 for the same works what male is doing as a labour. Therefore, the women labour recognizes the wage as a natural phenomenon.

There is question about equal rights for women but not about equal pay. It is very peculiar when you hear that a village woman is talking about equal rights but she is totally unaware of equal wage as a day or monthly labour. So, I call the unawareness of equal payments  socially embedded.

We have two basic seasons for paddy cultivation, the monsoon and the summer season. We need a huge number of workers for planting paddy as well as for harvesting. A huge number of women provide their labour in these both seasons. In every aspect of agricultural works, women are doing their works equally like a man, but ironically they get a half wage.

How does this happen? This is happening because women are not aware of their right to equal pay. Besides, they don’t even think the gender disparity. They never raise their voice against the system in which they are living.

Notwithstanding, the relationship between the workers and the employers never goes to be bad. The employers are totally aware of the system but, they only take the benefit of this system. The unconsciousness of the women labour is the benefits for the owners. Not only the agricultural fields but also many hard fields of work, women are doing the same jobs what their counterpart is doing and women are getting low wages again and again.

Agricultural women labours have to work from dawn to dusk. When they work someone house, they need to forget their, children, domestic animals and husband. Consequently, they are marginalized most of the time and it’s very difficult for them to bearing and rearing children.

On the other hand, male labours leave their works before the sun setting in the east. It is happening because they are uneducated and unaware of their rights. Including the civil society and the political authority, the state and all sorts of people aware about, but the conditions never change and nobody worries about this matter.

So, the resistance never grows within the society where they are working. However, the same is happening when our rural women want to do others works. For instances, NakshiKantha (a thin Blanket) is a popular name in South Asia. If you want to have a Nokhshi Katha, you have to spend 2000-5000 taka for each Nokshi Katha. Some multinational companies employed the village women for making these Katha and export these products throughout the world. The women labour, those who are working for this, they get only 3000 thousand per month, but each of them can make three to five Kathas in a month. The ultimate profit goes to the multi-national companies.

The Constitution of the Peoples’ of Bangladesh gives the equal rights to both; men and women but the reality are that our patriarchal society makes it unequal. Moreover, patriarchy spreads a strong hegemony and dominance over the economic aspects where women are restricted. In terms of an idea of social status and power of rural areas, are mostly depending on the idea of income and physical beauty.

Feminism should elaborate that there is a huge difference between sex roles and gender roles, gender roles are socially constructed. In the countryside, women are mostly unaware gender disparities; meaning that they have no ability to identify problems arising from gender inequality and discrimination and this unawareness create some obstacles to access to natural and social resources.

As we know, women’s powerlessness arises from their prejudices, social stigma, lack of awareness, skills and also from their lack of self-esteem and confidence.  For getting some solution, we should do some work on these issues in villages and town together. The concept of human capital of modern economists, such as education, brain, skill, choice, space and times, jobs experiences, is a false idea in the term of unequal payment in the village areas for the women labours of Bangladesh.

In this above picture, we can see the man and women are working the same work and they have the same skill. For this work, women don’t need the same educational qualification so, why women are getting less pay. Can we explain this with the term of human capital? Now, we can call it the gender discrimination of labour market of all neoliberal state.

Women labour in any urban areas have many active organizations, as well as many NGOs and independence artist, humanists, lawyers, social activists and like many philanthropists, work with them to get equal wages but in villages, women workers are scattered and alienated from each other.  No-one is there to organize them, no- one is there to tell their stories.

This article was first published on Daily Observer

Mostafa Shabuj is a journalist and poet from Bangladesh. He completed his M.A. in Sociology from South Asian University, New  Delhi, India. He writes poem and articles  both in Bengali and English for numerous newspapers and magazines.


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