Urban Married Women in Service Sectors of Darjeeling Hills: Gender Dynamics in Their Everyday Family Lives
The socialization of gender values begins from the family and ideas of what is expected of men and women by the society are significantly developed within it. These values thus shapes gender relations, consequently, perpetuating gendered power dynamics in different forms. One factor that can be assumed to impact these power dynamics in the family is women’s economically independent positions. This research paper aims to engage in understanding the gender relations and power dynamics within the family by taking into consideration a section of married women living in the towns of Darjeeling hills and engaged in salaried service sectors.
Economic participation of women in Darjeeling hills largely comes from tea, in addition, women are also engaged in agricultural work, informal sectors, run small shops and restaurants, also when we look back in the past, we do find that women in the region have taken up all kinds of work. At present, amidst a situation of limited opportunities for employment in the hills of Darjeeling, women with some level of educational attainment have however managed to secure employment in services in the region albeit in a relatively scant number. The sections of women who are employed in services are mostly urban dwellers in the towns of Darjeeling hills. The phenomenon of ‘dual-earner families’ is now more common among the urban dwellers in Darjeeling hills. Although the ideology of male breadwinner is still strong, the traditional ideology of an ideal ‘stay at home’ daughter in law seems to be now giving way to a ‘working’ daughter in law. A working woman has become a status symbol not only for her family of orientation but also for her family of procreation.
In every day narratives of Darjeeling hills, this section of women represent the form of modern ‘active’ women, who are educated, earn a living of their own, modern in their outlook, attire and lifestyles, also to some extent voice their opinions and are aware of the ways of the world. These women themselves can also be seen as maintaining a distinction from women living in the country side and plantations in terms of occupation status, outlook, attire, mobility, aspirations etc. which is sort of imitated also by women who migrate from rural areas to towns. However, in academic writings on uncovering gendered practices of work and ways of living in the context of Darjeeling hills, the major focus has been on tea plantations and the agriculture sector (Besky, 2014; Sen, 2017; Gurung and Mukhherjee, 2018) in which women have been engaged since the beginning. However, this particular section of women who have come to form an important reference group in the hill society at present have not been taken into consideration by scholars yet. As such, this paper will be engaged in exploring the experiences of these women in relation to gender in their everyday lives. A very significant question of ‘agency’ of these women through the resource of economic independence will be embedded within this analysis.
Keywords: Women, Urban, Married, Service Sector, Gender relations, Power dynamics, Family, Agency, Hill society.
Besky, S. (2014). The Darjeeling Distinction: Labor and Justice on Fair-Trade Tea Plantations in India. University of California Press.
Gurung, M & Mukherjee, S.R. (2018, November). Gender, Women and Work in the Tea Plantation: A Case study of Darjeeling Hills. The Indian Journal of Labour Economics, 61(3), 537-553. Sen, D. (2017). Everyday Sustainability: Gender Justice and Fair Trade Tea in Darjeeling. Albany: State University of New York.