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Women Income Agency Essay

Women Income Agency Essay

Pulling on theories of construction and bureau, this article assesses how adult females in lower income families in Damascus usage bing gender scheme to avoid unattractive employment and better their entree to income and employment. It highlights the overlapping effects of economic policy and gender dependence scheme on both the demand for extra income and adult females ‘s employment chances. Women Income Agency Essay Paper

While supplying greater entree to resources, adult females ‘s adjustment to gender dependence scheme besides helps to keep domesticity and dependance on work forces. Agency for these adult females draws on and reinforces a jointly gendered sense of ego that is cardinal to the procedure of both obtaining resources and making gender.


Over the past decennary, a turning organic structure of research has done much to disregard stereotypes sing adult females in the Middle East. Traveling off from narrations stressing either adult females ‘s subjugation within the AMuslim universe, or the strength of adult females ‘s affinity webs, bookmans have begun to analyze the niceties of opposition and conformity ( Abu-Lughod 1993 and 2000 ; MacLeod 1991 and 1992 ) , every bit good as the effects of political battle ( Lazreg 1994 ; Mahmood 2005 ) and economic fortunes ( Moghadam 2003 ; Ozyegin 2001 ; Singerman 1995 ) on normative gender ideals and their deductions for adult females ‘s well being and entree to resources. Women Income Agency Essay Paper

This article extends and refines this research in two ways. First, edifice on MacLeod ‘s ( 1991 and 1992 ) treatment of veiling as an illustration of Aaccommodating protest, I explore the utilizations and restraints of gender dependence scheme with respect to adult females ‘s employment determinations. Second, pulling on Sewell ‘s ( 1992 ) speculating on construction and bureau I argue that adult females ‘s employment determinations in Damascus illustrate the procedure through which gender emerges at the intersection of personal bureau, corporate individuality and entree to resources.

My primary concern is to offer an attack to speculating gender that places construction ( both resources and normative scheme about individuality and what is good ) at the centre, without marginalising either the dialogue of gender in interpersonal interaction or the exercising of bureau in mundane life. Women Income Agency Essay Paper

Speculating Agency, Resources and Moral Schemas

MacLeod ( 1991 and 1992 ) opens a manner for this treatment through her geographic expedition of the niceties of bureau and conformity in the pattern of veiling among new lower-middle category bureaucratic workers in Cairo. She argues that theories explicating conformity frequently lead to a adjustment / victimization duality in which bureau is lost. Alternatively she interprets the Anew gauze in Cairo as an illustration of Aaccommodating protest that reaffirms adult females ‘s domesticity while besides leting them to gain much needed income working outside the family.

Although this scheme may be interpreted as Atrading power for backing in the reproduction of societal inequality ( Schwalbe, Godwin, Holden, Schrock, Thompson, and Wolkomir 2000 ) , MacLeod argues that veiling is non merely a symbolic adjustment to norms of domesticity, but besides a protest against the loss of economic security and resources within households. Women Income Agency Essay Paper

Her analysis does non do as explicit the procedures through which normative ideals around adult females ‘s individuality and embeddedness in households intersect with province policies that shape both the distribution of resources and adult females ‘s determinations to work outside the place. The procedures that connect societal construction, bureau and scheme of dependence, in other words, remain to be more to the full explored.

One conceptual tool that allows us to get down to extricate this knot can be found in Sewell ‘s ( 1992 ) speculating on construction and bureau. Building on the work of Giddens ( 1979 ) and Bourdieu ( 1977 ) , Sewell argues that societal constructions are sets of scheme which he defines as generalizable sets of more-or-less formal regulations and normative orientations and significances that guide action, and resources ( both stuff and personal ) . Schemas work every bit moral or normative maps ( what Smith ( 2003 ) calls Amoral orders ) and are both embodied in establishments and enacted by persons. Women Income Agency Essay Paper

While schemes tend to be reproduced through human action, they besides embody possibilities for their ain transmutation peculiarly as they are creatively applied or Atransposed to new contexts or state of affairss. The changing ability of persons to re-explain and mobilise resources, coupled with the capriciousness of results when scheme are applied to new state of affairss allows for stableness in forms of relationships and power every bit good as the possibility for alteration.

Conceptually, this points to the saliency of a in-between degree scope of beliefs about both how the universe should work and how one should justly act within it. More than distinct regulations or cultural tools, believing approximately schemas as portion of the wide moral orders ( Smith 2003 ) that form adult females ‘s lives allows me to stipulate how what I call Agender dependence scheme are experienced as a composite of multiple, layered and sometimes contradictory sets of values, ideals and beliefs about work, gender, and household. Women Income Agency Essay Paper

Agency and Identity in the Middle East

Complicating the usage of scheme as a model for understanding gender within households in Syria is a corporate sense of individuality that embeds persons within patriarchal kin webs and frames employment, matrimony, and household dealingss. The centrality of patriarchal affinity to marriage, household and employment has a long history in Syria ( Meriwether 1999 ) . For modern-day adult females throughout the Middle East, these dealingss continue to be foundational to their sense of individuality and bureau.

Suad Joseph ( 1994 ) , for illustration, argues that households in Lebanon are characterized by a corporate individuality that emerges out of Arelational rights within patriarchal households, instead than out of a contractual ego, based on impressions of single liberty. Rather than speculating a affiliated relational ego enmeshed in a web of household relationships as dysfunctional, Joseph ( 1999 ) proposes a more culturally nuanced impression of ego, one that is embedded in dealingss with family within a broader context of Apatriarchal connectivity. Raising the image of an old cedar, she argues that visualizing Arab individuality as embedded and relational gaining controls both a sense of security and ability to pull strength from one ‘s roots, every bit good the intransigency many adult females ‘s experience. Women Income Agency Essay Paper

The roots of individuality are generated and maintained through the male parent, whose Aseed transmits and unites persons within families and across extended households ( Delaney 1991 ) . Merely as God generates the universe, so excessively work forces ( specifically older, married work forces ) are understood as bring forthing and holding authorization over household members. That authorization is expressed through work forces widening or denying permission to get married, prosecute in concern, manage belongings, travel, or even talk in public.

Furthermore, it is reinforced through webs of related work forces who act as alternates by implementing criterions of behaviour and motion expected within the family. Whereas the authorization of boies bit by bit increases as they enter maturity, girls and married womans remain under the authorization of an older adult male throughout their lives.

Still, adult females find elusive ways to manouevre around paternal permission by befoging, redefining or airting their motions and activities in ways that maintain at least glosss of respect and obeisance, while defying and puting bounds to their subordination ( Abu Lughod 1990 ; MacLeod 1992 ) . Women Income Agency Essay Paper

Gender Dependency Schemas, Agency and Collective Identity

In the same manner that authorization to move prevarications officially outside the ego ( Delaney 1991 ) and operates across a diffused set of family, bureau and individuality are besides diffused across groups of related family. This corporate and relational ego ( Joseph 1991 ) is besides a jointly gendered self whose individuality is framed by a moral vision of responsible and respectable muliebrity that encompasses patriarchal affinity, respect, award, protection and proviso.

Women ‘s place is clearly low-level. However, limited power does non contradict bureau at least every bit bureau every bit understood as formed and given significance within a peculiar set of relationships ( see Mahmood ( 2005 ) on bureau, morality and the ego within the context of Islamic cultural political relations ) .

Gender dependence schemas supply a moral narrative model at the intersections of patriarchal permission, corporate individuality and the ability of adult females to exert bureau within the restraints of their personal and material resources. These are framed by societal category, every bit good as the moral orders and resources embodied in province economic and societal policies. Conceptually, this impression of gender dependence scheme adds deepness and nicety to theoretical theoretical accounts of the dialogue of gender. Women Income Agency Essay Paper

Trenchant and popular theoretical accounts of gender as managed and negotiated ( Gerson and Peiss 1985 ; West and Zimmerman 1987 ) , or the impression of dickering with patriarchate in which adult females receive Aprotection and security in exchange for submissiveness and properness ( Kandiyoti 1988, 280 ) draw on linguistic communication that suggests human action can outdo be described utilizing economic metaphors and rational pick.

What Sewell ‘s construct of scheme and Smiths treatment of moral orders add to this theorizing is a footing for measuring why peculiar terminals are understood as meaningful or good and why peculiar schemes for traveling towards those terminals are understood as right, normative, just or merely. These in bend intersect with province scheme around individuality, adult females ‘s rights, the distribution of resources and societal category.

State Schemas, Resources & A ; Women ‘s Employment

During the 20th century, particularly following the rise to power of the late President Hafez al-Assad in 1963 and go oning after the passing of power to his boy Bashar in 2000, multiple political and economic forces have reshaped the category construction of Syria. Since the mid-1990s, worsening oil rents and decreases in support from the former Soviet Union and the Gulf States, along with regional political tensenesss and high military disbursement, have all contributed to a turning sense of economic and political precariousness ( Hinnebush 1996 ; Poelling 1996 ) . Women Income Agency Essay Paper

Wagess are low for the bulk of workers in Damascus. Even professionals who by Western criterions might be expected to command comparatively high wages typically earn less than three 100 dollars per month. As a consequence, it is now common for even professional work forces to keep two occupations, one in authorities ( which employs about 40 per centum of the work force ( Central Bureau of Statistics2003 ) ) and a 2nd in the little, but turning, private sector.

For multiple grounds, adult females ‘s employment is going progressively acceptable in Syria as in other states in the part ( Assaad and el-Hamidi 2001 ; Hoodfar 1997 ; Moghadam 2003 ; Sonbol 2003 ) . Three decennaries of Ba’ath socialist party policies promoting adult females ‘s instruction and public discourse back uping adult females ‘s part to society at all degrees have provided an alternate normative model for understanding employment as emancipating instead than a last resort that reflects the failure of hubbies or other male kin to supply. Women Income Agency Essay Paper

In add-on to free university preparation for those with measure uping exam tonss, a scope of province sponsored vocational schools provide classs in computing machines, instruction, cross-stitch, run uping, foreign linguistic communication and other Fieldss. Literacy for both male childs and misss dramatically improved under Assad and adult females receive equal wage as work forces in similar places within the bureaucratism.

Although adult females consisting merely one-seventh of the entire work force, educated in-between category adult females are reasonably good represented within the professions, peculiarly instruction, and authorities service. Women hold 27 per centum of all places in province ministries, and 14 of 154 seats in the People ‘s Assembly ( Central Bureau of Statistics 2003 ; Shaaban 1996 ) approximately the same per centum of adult females as are in the United States Congress. Women Income Agency Essay Paper

Lower income families find themselves in a instead different place counterpart these resources. Most have comparatively low degrees of instruction and battle to obtain equal employment. Wagess are tantamount to about 80 dollars a month and the poorest of the hapless unrecorded hand-to-mouth. Government subsidies for basic nutrients and public-service corporations allow households to stretch their income to cover most necessities.

Yet economic restructuring has led to the decrease or riddance of many of these subsidies, every bit good as fewer chances for employment in province sponsored building, industry or fabrication. Resulting rising prices and underemployment strain lower income households, so that even when work forces hold a 2nd or 3rd occupation there is by and large non plenty to do ends meet.

For adult females in lower income families, happening suited employment is much more debatable than it is for their center and upper category opposite numbers. In malice of Ba’ath party attempts to further adult females ‘s instruction and public service, lower income households tend to be more conservative sing appropriate activities for adult females outside the family. Women Income Agency Essay Paper

Given the demand for extra income, nevertheless, households are progressively faced with the job of accommodating their stuff demands with normative ideals sing adult females ‘s domesticity and work forces ‘s economic duties. For these households, employment in the Ainformal sector as workers in little household concerns, piece workers, freelance and little production are common options to formal paid labour ( Early 1993 ; Lobban 1998 ) , particularly for adult females with lower degrees of instruction ( Ali 1998 ; Assaad and El-Hamidi 2001 ) .

The Research

This article addresses two sets of related inquiries. First, how does the application of bing gender scheme to increasing demands for income modify or reinforce bing forms of adult females ‘s subordination and dependance on work forces? Behind these stuff and societal necessities lie beliefs about what is indispensable to life, among which is a gendered sense of ego that is negotiated within a peculiar ideological and political-economic system.

A 2nd set of inquiries assesses how the political economic system of Syria signifiers and limits the parametric quantities within which lower income adult females negotiate gender and employment. The purpose is to analyze gender as a construction of pattern as it is lived at the intersections of bureau, resources, and individuality. Women Income Agency Essay Paper


The footing of my analysis is fieldnotes made following multiple open-ended treatments with adult females in Damascus, Syria. These conversations took topographic point during eight, one-to-four month periods of fieldwork conducted between 1992 and 2004. While the broader undertaking involved treatments with adult females across category, this analysis focuses on lower income adult females employed two informal trade undertakings.

These undertakings are two of several sponsored by assorted local, national and international organisations in an attempt to relieve poorness through the coordination, industry and selling of handicrafts. Acknowledging that adult females tend to utilize their income for basic family demands and as a buffer in unstable or opprobrious relationships, both undertakings focused their attempts on preparation and employment that provided adult females chances for gaining and commanding their ain income.

This fieldwork coincided with the induction of one undertaking in 1992, and followed adult females working in a 2nd undertaking established in 1982. Fifteen adult females were active in the newer, decentralized undertaking that began in 1992. Ten of the 15 adult females were Palestinians whose households had lived in Syria for three or four coevalss. Women Income Agency Essay Paper

Nine of the 15 were single immature adult females in their late teens or early mid-twentiess assisting to back up their parents ‘ family during the mediate old ages following senior high school and before matrimony. The undertaking besides employed five married adult females and one widow in their mid to late forties who were supplementing their ain family income by bring forthing cross-stitch. In this decentralized undertaking, all of the adult females did their stitching at place, with the manager dropping off stuffs and picking up finished work one time every hebdomad or so.

The 2nd, more constituted undertaking was much larger. More than two 100 adult females were associated with that undertaking, most scattered throughout the community and in towns to the South. About a fifth of these adult females are Palestinian. The big bulk do cross-stitch at place and come to the workshop to pick up stuffs and drop off finished work as demand and chance arise. Most of my contact with adult females in this more constituted undertaking was limited to the eight to ten adult females who worked in a workshop owned by the manager.

One or two these adult females were Palestinian, the balance were Syrian subjects. During my visiting, about all of the adult females working in the store were single. Womans affiliated with the undertaking who worked within their families came from a broad scope of household state of affairss some married, some never-married and life at place, some widowed, separated or divorced. In drawn-out families, senior adult females were more likely to be making cross-stitch ; while daughters-in-law and younger married adult females were by and large excessively occupied with caring for little kids to take on extra work. Women Income Agency Essay Paper

The male parents and hubbies in these households worked in a assortment of businesss: tradesman or a baker, driving a cab, or low-level authorities service. Others were retired, handicapped, or, in a few instances, absent. Wages for employed work forces ranged from 40 to seventy dollars a month.

Visiting & A ; Fieldnotes

The field work for this analysis consisted chiefly of multiple informal visits with adult females involved in these two trade undertakings. Visits took topographic point in adult females ‘s places or in the workshop where I had chance to speak with both adult females who worked in the store every bit good as those who dropped in to pick up or present stuffs. Early in the fieldwork, I began with a set of general inquiries about adult females ‘s work and household life and from there allow conversations run over the subjects and issues adult females raised, replying, every bit good as inquiring, inquiries during multiple visits that typically each lasted several hours. Women Income Agency Essay Paper

In all instances, I was introduced as a visiting professor who wanted to larn more about how adult females managed work and household life, and as a friend of the manager with whom adult females could speak freely without concern that information would be passed on to the security constabulary. My boy ( age three when I began the research ) came along on legion visits, leting conversations to of course flux towards the troubles adult females face in uniting paid work with household life. Visits involved non lone treatment of work and household issues, but imbibing tea, socialising and assisting to fix or portion in an occasional repast.

Conversations were in both English and Arabic. At times, the undertaking managers assisted in interlingual rendition filling in the spreads in my vocabulary when the conversation ranged beyond the subjects of work and household with which I was most familiar. Other times I visited with a university pupil whom I introduced as a friend who would assist interpret when necessary. Copious field notes were made every bit shortly as possible after each visit depicting the topographic points, people present, behaviours, a general lineation of how the treatment progressed, narratives told, and every bit much as possible Reconstructions of specific subdivisions of the conversation. Women Income Agency Essay Paper

On juncture, I would sit down with the pupil who accompanied me and we would tape record an unwritten Areview of what we ‘d done that forenoon, together retracing the conversation, interaction, and scene of that forenoon ‘s visit. Although fieldwork frequently involves taping and transcribing interviews, this was neither possible nor desirable among these households. Taping conversations would hold significantly altered the kineticss of an informal visit.

Furthermore, given concerns with control over information and confidentiality the adult females with whom I visited would hold justly been hesitating to talk had I produced a tape recording equipment at the oncoming of our conversations. Therefore, as in the instance of legion others making field work among adult females in this part ( Early 1993 ; Hoodfar1997 ; MacLeod 1991 ; White 1994 ) this analysis draws on observation and reconstructed conversations instead than direct citations from canned taped interviews. Women Income Agency Essay Paper

Multiple visits with adult females, both in the workshop and in their ain places, produced literally 100s of pages of field notes. The remarks of adult females below were selected as representative of the positions and subjects that emerged from a systematic reading, coding and re-reading of those notes.

Pulling on a little sample, of class, makes it hard to generalise, so that adult females ‘s descriptions of whether, when and why they engage in income bring forthing labour clearly are non intended to be interpreted as representative of the voices of adult females in Syria, or adult females in Damascus, allow entirely AMuslim or AArab adult females overall. Citations are non intended to be representative but instead exemplifying of a scope of schemes adult females employ in using gender dependence scheme to the practical demand to augment a family ‘s income.