Rural Indian Girls Chase Big-City Dreams
In a new feature by Ellen Barry in The New York Times, Barry reports on the secret lives of India’s factory girls: of love-letters, money, fever & freedom. Barry takes a deep look at women & work in India:
“The factory floor is going full throttle when the new girls walk in. Everywhere is the thrumming of sewing machines, the hum of fans, the faint burning smell of steam irons. On narrow tables that run between the machines, half-assembled Marks & Spencer miniskirts are thrust forward by fistfuls. The tailors, absorbed in the task of finishing 100 pieces per hour, for once turn their heads to look.
The new girls smell of the village. They have sprinklings of pimples. They woke well before dawn to prepare themselves for their first day of work, leaning over one another’s faces in silence to shape the edges of each eyebrow with a razor blade. Their braids bounce to their hips, tight and glossy, as if woven by a surgeon. On their ankles are silver chains hung with bells, so when they walk in a group, they jingle.
But it is impossible to hear this sound over the racket on the factory floor. The tailors glance up for only a moment, long enough to take in an experiment. The new workers — teenagers, most of them — have been recruited from remote villages to help factories like this one meet the global demand for cheap garments. But there is also social engineering going on.
A government program has drawn the trainees from the vast population of rural Indian women who spend their lives doing chores. In 2012, the last time the government surveyed its citizens about their occupation, an astonishing 205 million women between the ages of 15 and 60 responded ‘attending to domestic duties.’
Economists, with increasing urgency, say India will not fulfill its potential if it cannot put them to work in the economy. They say that if female employment were brought on par with male employment in India, the nation’s gross domestic product would expand by as much as 27 percent.”
The full story can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/25/world/asia/bangalore-india-women-factories.html
This is the latest article in Barry’s series India’s Missing Women that explore why women in India are struggling to enter the work force, despite a prolonged economic expansion, rising education and declining fertility.