Srimayee Dam, University of Calcutta
Gender dimensions on 'role-changing': an integrative approach
The paper attempts to argue about whether women are empowered on men migrating from their homes. Men migrating may bring about changes in the gender division of labour, including feminization of agriculture and an increase in women’s workload. Men migrating may also mean women left behind enjoy a pre-dominant role in household decision-making, or increasing interdependence with the extended family. They assume greater household and economic responsibilities. Although women may be financially dependent on remittances from their overseas relatives, they have substantial autonomy over decisions about how the funds will be used. Should their husbands not return home, or stop sending remittances, the women take up even greater responsibility for themselves and for their children.
Women may gain autonomy in absence of men, however they may also suffer stresses and vulnerabilities, and burdened with excessive work. If remittances are sent to women family members, this boosts their status and control. However, this may not be the case if bank accounts are handled by a male relative. Migration of men may affect cultural norms in the household, to a woman’s benefit or detriment. For example, it has been noticed that where men have migrated from Muslim communities in South Asia to the Middle East, they and their households have at times adopted more orthodox customs in order to showcase their increased position on associating with the richer Middle Easters, which instead resulted in the seclusion of women in their families.
Thus, migrations are gender-sensitive, where role-changing is an accepted practice. This also explains the fact that, though gender-motivated are the concerns yet it doesn’t adhere to the contours of gender-categorization. And it is such practices that fail the colonial constructs. Thereby, cultural confluences in the post-colonial age bring about uniformity and universality in every sphere, with “gender parameters” being no exception.