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Year: 2009 Type: Report Language: English

There have been a number of debates in Bangladesh, as well as elsewhere, as to whether women's experience of paid work is empowering or simply exploitative. The Bangladesh survey was designed to explore these hypotheses with a view to clarifying a) whether it was primarily the kind of work (pay, location, hours, independence of activity) which might differentiate women's experiences of paid work or whether it was the possibility for new relationships and networks that made the main difference. If the former, we would expect home based work for little pay, carried out on an irregular basis to offer least possibility of empowerment. If the latter, we would expect that it would be women's membership in different kinds of groups and associations, which might encompass home-based microfinance activities, to make the significant difference. The associational aspect of work can be both a characteristic of certain types of work as well as an outcome of certain types of work. A survey was carried out in 8 locations with 5000 respondents aged 15 and above. This preliminary paper presented to 'Pathways: What are we Learning?' Conference held in Cairo from 20-24 January 2009, seeks to document the kinds of work women do; identify which types of work lead to greater agency over one’s life (family), aspirations, mental well-being; which types of work lead to new relationships, networks, associational life (beyond family and kin) and political engagement; and which types of work are simply increasing women’s work burdens without any of the above.