Society

Gender and Work in West Bengal

Auto rickshaws operating on the streets of Kolkata.
Auto rickshaws operating on the streets of Kolkata. (Photo: Henrik Rubner)

Gender plays a crucial role in the Indian labour market. The choice of profession, migration pattern or participation in workers’ unions are all fundamentally influenced by gender roles and expectations. With support of RLS, the School of Women’s Studies at Jadavpur University in Kolkata conducted in-depth studies on questions of work and gender in West Bengal. Being one of the oldest partners of RLS since 2004, this project with the School of Women’s Studies has been concluded in 2015.

By focusing on domestic and beauty workers as well as rickshaw drivers, the researchers examined the working conditions of both stereotypical “female” and “male” professions. But besides being both determined by gendered ideas of behaviour and communication, they share many other similarities. In all the cases, formalised contracts are rare, access to legal protection as well as public entitlements is low and the work is often performed by labour migrants. The studies included topics like “Women and Media in the Context of Globalisation”, “Politics and Ideology of Trade Unions in Gujarat and West Bengal” and “Single women Migration and their Working Conditions as Domestic Workers in West Bengal”. In consequence of the research, the School of Women’s Studies conducted capacity building workshops, distributed information material among the respective workers in Kolkata and approached public officials and the public. For example, a brochure informing auto rickshaw drivers as well as passengers about their rights and responsibilities, received wide spread attention and started a public debate on Kolkata’s transportation system.

Our Partner

The  School of Women’s Studies at Jadavpur University in Kolkata was founded in 1988 to expand the gender related knowledge in the traditional disciplines in science and humanities. However, the research also always had the distinct aim to empower women and therefore keeps close contact with activists fighting for social justice in the field.

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