Constructing and Practicing Rights: A Perspective of Female Factory Workers in Bangladesh


In this paper, I analyze the citizenship of female workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I discuss how rights are built in response to dynamic powers and authorities in the context of local governance. For female workers, claiming rights often imply stepping out of a familiar social-cultural framework with the goal of pursuing the attention of state. However, in the uneven process of rights obtainment, those involved could not dispense with obvious traces of clientelism; besides, dwelling in city and participating in urban geopolitics, female workers in particular experience constant confrontations related to gender order and state policies.

Taking the export processing zones as example, I described how state policies and the influence of transnational capitalism have reshaped gender order. In addition, various worker organizations, including both local and transnational NGOs and trade unions expanding with the garment industry, have deeply involved when workers claiming over rights. They provide assistance to worker’s specific needs, such as mental and physical cares and motherhood responsibilities; these, in turn, consolidate connections between female workers and increase their willingness to participate in labor negotiations. In this process, various labor-related experiences and the workers’ daily lives are mediated by the organizations.

By examining how dominant forces interplay and destabilize the citizenship of female workers, I point out that female workers in Bangladesh exercise their rights through various approaches and develop more empirical and relational concepts of rights. The ways female workers organize and claim their rights reflect the transformation of social-cultural context and nation-building of Bangladesh.

Author Information
Jui Han Kan, National Taiwan University, Taiwan
Mei Hsia Wang, National Taiwan University, Taiwan

Paper Information
Conference: ACAS2020
Stream: Indian and South Asian Studies

This paper is part of the ACAS2020 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Kan J., & Wang M. (2020) Constructing and Practicing Rights: A Perspective of Female Factory Workers in Bangladesh ISSN: 2187-4735 The Asian Conference on Asian Studies 2020: Official Conference Proceedings
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon