Urban studies

Research on the women of the kamahan village

Submitted by: Maria Sajjad

Bsc (Hons) economics

Thesis statement An analysis of the women of the Kamahan village reveals different challenges that the women are facing in their domestic lives, at their work place and in a community. My paper reveals the daily lives of the women, identifies the household related factors that leads to women participation in the economic activities, under what circumstances do they leave their houses, what difficulties do they face while they navigate the gendered public spaces and possible solution to their problems.

Background Lahore had a phenomenal progress in regard of developing an urban landscape. While developing an urban Lahore there were many villages that were wiped off and the lower-class population living there were either marginalized to the periphery of the city and many ghettoized within the urban spheres that are unseen to the eye of any human being until and unless he sees behind the wall of the urban spheres. “The increasing multiethnic and economically marginal population and the state‟s inability to provide housing and other social amenities to its populace have encouraged a privatized informal sector of land grabbing and allocation, resulting in the mushrooming of unplanned squatter settlements that house almost 40% of the city‟s population (Zaidi 1999). (Kamran Asdar Ali, pg S315). The people are in worse conditions as the state does not provide them with the equitable recourses that is their right as a citizen. So on one hand we see a clean urban sphere with luscious gardens known as defense in Lahore and within its premises is the village with unpaved streets, heaps of cow dung, human wastes on the roads leading to houses and garbage all over, as said by Kamran Asdar Ali in his article „voicing difference‟ that “the phenomenal growth has resulted in the maldistribution of civic resources to the poorest of its population.” (Asdar Ali, pg S314) As it is clear through such a development that “Development is always directed towards a particular class.”, and it got even more clear to me while conducting a research on the village on the margins of defense known as „kamahya‟. The village is in its worst conditions where the rights of the people are being violated by not providing them with the basic needs, as stated by asdar ali “Pakistan today is marred by sectarian and religious strife and also state violence against its own people in different parts of the country.” (Kamran Asdar Ali, pg S314). It is necessary to pay attention to the lives of those who are living in a very different way as within a

context of progress, those lower-class people who are marginalized during the process of the development of an urban landscape, go through a complete different problems in regard of the civic engagement, employment, internal political, hygiene and the gender i.e. women, their daily problems that are different from the women living in an urban sphere. This village known as kamahan was there before the existence of Pakistan and with the colonial rule, the overall structure of the sub-continent was changed and the plan was made to create an urban space within the country by marginalizing the poor to the periphery of the „modern” cities. Kamahya is a village that is example of the area of the lower class that went through the development process that was directed towards a particular class and this lower class exists within the borders of defense housing authority, and was excluded from the process of development. The people are living in poverty here, men living in this village work as laborers on a contract basis or street vendor. The women sew clothes at home, work as daily servants at defense or very few works at hosiery factory. There is a problem of lack of clean water access in this village; there is an issue of electricity and cooking of food using biogas. There is heaps of garbage everywhere in the village. Due to the under-allocation of recourses by the government or the corruption of government officials, the village is in a bad condition in regard of the hygiene and the basic necessities. Whereas my paper is an intense analysis of the women of the kamahya village reveals different challenges that the women are facing in their domestic lives, at their work place and in a community. My paper reveals the daily lives of the women, identifies the household related factors that leads to women participation in the economic activities, under what circumstances do they leave their houses and what difficulties do they face while they navigate the gendered public spaces.

Daily lives of the women of kamahan village and their problems Women live in a society that is highly stratified according to class, social, economic, regional and cultural variations, all of which have implications for their lives. After conducting a thorough research on the women of the village known as „Kamahya‟, we encountered many problems that bore within the community that are affecting the lives of the women adversely. “Ethnic difference, cultural politics, gendered discrimination, and economic hierarchies are intertwined in the everyday experience of poor women‟s lives” (Kamran Asdar Ali, pg S316.) . After talking to one of the lady of the village and interviewing about her daily life, we came to know that the lives of these women living in the village, within the urban space, are very different from the women residing in a developed area. The women living in the village kamahan are mostly the one who works as domestic servants in the nearby town known as defense, others are engaged in sewing clothes and very few work at a hosiery factory in order to meet the financial constraints due to inefficient income of their spouses and to support extended families. Whereas some of the women remain at home and look after their children and home. After meeting most of the women of this village, I was shocked to hear stories of violence and torture that they experienced in their daily lives by their spouses, most of these men were drug addicts and they physically and verbally abused their wives. These lower-class women mostly have to face the economic pressure and earn in order to save their hunger-struck families from dying.

Identification of the household related factors that leads to lower-class women participation in the economic activities (Why do they women go out of their houses to work?) Given a socio-economic milieu in which the vast majority of the populace are victims of social, political and economic deprivation, even the lower-class women have struggled to go out of their houses and look up for work. “Social changes in the last few decades in Pakistan have forced a large percentage of women from all classes to work in the traditional and nonformal sectors of the economy. In recent years, because of economic pressures and the dissolution of extended families in urban areas, many more women are also working for wages than in the past” (Asdar Ali pg, S315) .Often, the working women of Pakistan face danger and discrimination from the outset with the decision to work, it is because they have the insecurities in their lives that they might face public violence, the male gender of the lower-class are either unemployed or indulged into narcotics due to which these lower-class women choose to work in order to raise their families. Similar were some of the issues that the women of the „kamahan‟ village face in their daily lives; i.e. the violence by their males, separation from their spouses because of a number of reasons, mostly because of the birth of just females in a family, other reasons include the indulgence of their spouses in narcotics. Due to high inflation, poverty and large number of child births within lower-class families the women have to take role of a bread earner. As stated by Kamran Asdar Ali that “Data suggest that in the 1990s this decrease was arrested, and poverty rates are climbing in Pakistan precisely when the state expenditure on the social sector is reduced because of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)–sponsored structural adjustment programs. These

policies have manifested in increased inflation and reduced access to affordable health, education, and housing.”(Kamran Asdar Ali, pg S314) I interviewed twenty women of the kamahan village and asked them about the challenges that the face in their everyday life, moreover I questioned them that what circumstances lead them to look up for work and how do they cope up with everyday challenges at workplace, what problems do they face in the public spaces and the community where they are surviving. While interviewing a mother of eight named Bushara Bibi and asking her that what makes her to work as daily servant in the nearby houses, I was overwhelmed when she told me about the hardships she had to face and how life has taught her the skill of being a true survivor. She was married in a very early age with a man who was working nearby the village as an electrician. Bushara Bibi told us that “I got married in a very early age. The age of 14, when the girls usually marry their dolls, I became a mother of one”. With the passage of time came child after child and soon the little Bushara was the mother of eight. Bushara Bibi says that “Life wasn't difficult at that time, even though my family faced difficulties but my husband still managed to pull some strings and fed everyone” she further continued as “But life had different plans for me, my husband died due to electrocution while connecting high voltage powers and all hell broke loose.” With zero income and the little property they had, was almost everything Bushara was left with. Bushara did not lose hope because she had eight mouths to feed; if we walk a mile in her shoes, would let us know how difficult are the times when there is almost no one you could depend on. Bushara Bibi further said that “Things were hard and unbearable in the beginning and i thought of killing myself and my children because as a mother I could not see my children being tortured by hunger, my family did not support me, as everyone had their own problems”, Bushara Bibi further said that “it was some miracle by God who give me the strength

to think straight and I went out of my house to look for work ,leaving my kids at home and my eldest daughter of 13 looked after them. And I found work at defense as a domestic servant.” .On asking her that is her monthly income sufficient to feed her family, we were told “as I get 3000 from the place where I work, I work from 10 am to 2 pm in a house located in defense. In the evening I sew clothes for the women in my village who pay me around 150 rupees for a suit. No, the money is not enough, but we manage to survive somehow in a limited income.” The lives of the lower-class women, their problems and the challenges they face are way different from other women. The economic and social factors such as, Population, inflation and poverty, are the key variables that lead them to work for the survival of their families. As it is said by Kamran Asdar Ali “One of the major concerns that these women related was the social and economic insecurity in their lives that had led them to leave home and find work in the first place.” (Kamran Asdar Ali, pg S316.). Bibi Bushara is one of the brave women who took the role of a bread earner and held her responsibility for the existence of her family. After surveying the women of the village, I came to know that the people residing within such villages, where they live in small houses and grouped together in small communities‟ faces very different socio-economic problems. The men are usually unemployed, addicted to drugs, or just lazy, and their laziness is socially accepted. They work as laborers on a contract basis or street vendors. So the women have to work due to the uncertainty of their spouses‟ income, which may be caused by sickness, laziness, old age or the institutional irregularity of working as a day laborer. Around 9 women that we interviewed were working in the houses in a nearby town that is defense because their husbands were drug addicts and did not help them with work. Bibi Tayabba a 40 years old woman said that:

“I work in 3 different houses and by the end of the day I get very tired, because at home I also have to take care of the kids and house work. I have 6 daughters and 3 sons I have to feed and my husband does not help me in anything. My husband just eats sleeps and gives orders to me; he doesn‟t care about the financial problems we are going through and takes half of my income for his drugs. As a part time work I sew clothes for the daughters of the place where I go for work. It is very difficult to survive and feed my 9 children with few thousands in this phase of time.” There were also such lower-class women that we met, whose husbands were common laborers and in order to meet their financial need and feed their children these women have to work, as but the men of these lower-class women are conservative so most of the women of the village who have their males working do not work and the one who are working their spouses are left with no other option but to let their women work because of the adverse financial conditions that they are going through and for the survival of their children. Other than this, there is another category of women living in this village; we met woman named Samina Bibi, who is teaching in a government school within the village known as Deyo School, she said that: “My husband‟s income was not sufficient to meet our need so I started working as a teacher in a school, I belong to a conservative family but my parent made me do metric. After mirage we had financial problem, at first my husband didn‟t allow me to work but then I was given permission to teach in an all-girls school. I do this job for the sake of my kids, so that I can provide them with a better living standard.”

Pakistani family life is based on the traditional roles and values of family members. The husband is the breadwinner, major decision maker and head of the family. The wife‟s role is to bring up children, take care of the household and to provide emotional nurturance to her husband. If any family member fails to behave properly as demanded by the tradition, that person brings disharmony and shame to the family. The lower-class and lower-middle class men in our society have the similar conservative thinking that the woman‟s primary role is to remain in home and look after her children and do household work. So only in the extreme case when the men‟s income fails to cope up with the financial challenges that their family is facing only in that case they allow their women to go out of their houses to work. Then we met a woman named Humaira, who was working in a hosiery factory. She‟s a daughter of a widow, her father passes away when she was 12, and then her mother raised her 6 children of which Humaira is the eldest. Humaira is 16 now, and last year her mother had foliage due to which she had to go out and look for work in order to meet the financial constraints of her family. She‟s working in a hosiery factory, where she makes handmade mats and is paid 2500 per month. She said “It is really difficult to meet the needs of my family in 2000 per month, my 2 youngest siblings are studying in a school in the village and I pay their monthly fee of 200 as well, besides that the electricity is very expensive. We use biogas to cook food and the rest money goes for purchasing food for the month. We have meal twice a day and I‟m the sole earner in the house.” So, the lower-class women in the village kamahya are living a very tough life, the economic fluctuations in our economy effects these lower-class people the most because of their financial constraints. Through interviewing them I get to know many aspects of these villages located

within the urban spaces and the women issues and the challenges that they face in their everyday life.

Problems faced by these Women at workplace and while navigating the gendered public spaces Increased Inflation, poverty and population has led to the greater participation of women of the lower class then in the past. There is a lot of economic pressure due to insufficient income of the spouse is not sufficient to run the extended families, death of the spouse or male suffering from illness that lead these women to work in order to cope up with the financial challenges that their families are facing. When the women go out to work they face a lot of problems at their workplace and as they are traversing the public spaces, they have to listen to a lot of rude comments while passing through the streets or waiting for the buses at the bus stops, they go through violence at the workplace, they are bodily harmed and this sometimes makes them strong and sometimes ruins their lives. The problems associated with the lower and lower-middle class women are completely different from the problems of the middle and upper class women residing in an urban space. As said by Kamran Asdar Ail, “Urban public life in Pakistan for lower-class women does not always allow them the “pleasures” of the “modern”: cinemas, cafes, parks, concert halls, beaches, or the promenade that they can enter at their own volition. Instead, poor women in particular may be subject to harassment in the narrow alleys of industrial townships, in long waits at the bus stops of the unpredictable public transport system, and in the discriminating work culture that they must negotiate in order to earn a living.” (Kamran Asdar Ali, Pg S315)

Bibi Bushara , who works as a daily servant in defense said that “we face a lot of problems while going to our work place, once I got free late in the evening from the place where I work, as there was some function in that house. So, while going home from city to my village there were some vagabonds on the motorcycles who started teasing me and they were whistling and passed rude comments felt really bad and wanted to kill them. And I got scared and started walking fast toward my village.” Bibi Bushara also told the story of the young girl who lives in a next street, she said that, “it is very important that the place where you work is secure for you and the people are good, especially the houses in which you are working as a servant, there is a girl who live in a next street named Sana, a young girl, she was working as a servant in a house in defense. The master of the house happened to be of a bad character and he tried to physically abuse the girl.” This is a commonly prevailing parasite in our society and the poor lower-class girls and women are mostly the victim. These women also have a lot of worries and insecurities in their lives due to the violence that they suffer in public spaces and workplace where they have to move on daily basis. Asdar Ali in his article voicing difference states that: “Women we spoke to complained that these open public spaces were where they most often encountered attempts to engage them in conversation, rude comments, touching, and in extreme cases the threat of bodily harm. The need to negotiate streets filled with the “unknown” and “unrelated” was something the women faced on a daily basis..” (Asdar Ali, pg S316).Few of the women who work in a hosiery factory said that “we face a lot of problems in our everyday life.

Going from home to the factory is very difficult. We have to wait at the bus stop and sometimes we do listen to the rude comments from illiterate young boys on the bikes.” She further said that “we are not respected in our society, the men of society treat us like a puppet, and they think they are superior and if we are going out to work they‟ll think that we are invading their superiority.” So they face a lot of problem and obstacles while moving in a gendered public space. As stated by Asdar Ali in his article “voicing difference”: “Most men, of course, experienced the city with far more comfort and freedom than the women we met with ever did. Men traverse the public sphere without the same kind of bodily discipline and emotional restraint that women have to endure.” (Asdar Ali, Pg S317) The women face a set of completely different issues and problems in the society and it‟s because of the opposite gender. The unemployed, idol and frustrated men who have nothing to do but the stroll on the streets, they abuse these women while passing by. This is one of the common problems that every lower-class working women go through n daily basis.

Conclusion It is mostly not realized but women pertaining to the lower class segment are more active economically, and hence, socially than their counter parts in middle class. But it does not mean that they are not discriminated because overall behavior towards women is biased and based on discrimination; hence women in our lower classes tend to fight severe battles of survival, without them working their families cannot survive, it is the economic constraint on them. When they come out to work, they have to face two fold miseries; taboos in society, discrimination and limited opportunities. It goes to their credit and honor that they survive in these circumstances and provide for their families, and this is the real distinction between them and their folks in developed countries; here they are a distinct possibility, unacknowledged, insecure and unprotected. Through the survey of the women of kamahan village we came to know the limited opportunities for these lower-class women, majority of them working as the daily servants due to the economics pressure binding over them. They have to face a lot of problems within the community. Now in order to make the lives of these hardworking easier, the NGO‟s can play a major role. That can provide these women respectable jobs. Other than that we need a support from different genders and the ethnic backgrounds in order to remove this aspect of „fear‟ within the souls of these working women. We do not have an honest wider representation of our underprivileged. Majority of women folk in Pakistan are no queens, they are fighting for survival of themselves and their families. What is needed is to appreciate their role and provide them with equal opportunities, respectable jobs, build small-scale industries, and restrict possibilities of exploitation of our labor force (particularly women).