The impact of formal employment for rural women in Fiji : a case study
Formal employment for women has taken on major importance as developing countries pursue economic development. The Women in Development (WID) and Gender and Development (GAD) approaches have placed increasing importance on women's contribution to economic growth and development. Historically, by ignoring their large domestic workload, women have been viewed as "untapped resources" which can be used to contribute to economic growth. Women already playa prominent role within the household and generally have much busier days than men in developing countries (UNPF, 1995). Therefore any increase in their workload will dramatically affect the household. Sen (1990) contends that increasing women's economic contribution to the household increases their status. There is debate over whether this is true of the women in developing countries who have become formally employed. This qualitative case study explores the impact of formal employment for the women of Natokalau village in Fiji. They have been employed at a tuna canning factory (PAFCO) in the main town of Levuka on Ovalau Island. The men in the village have retained their traditional role of working in the garden to produce food for the household. Women are still generally held responsible for the household duties as well as working at PAFCO. Changes in the gender roles for women have seen their workload increase, perceived increases in household decision-making, but no apparent change in their status at a village level. There have only been minor changes to the gender roles of the men. The benefits of increased income, improved housing standards and better education for children have been tempered with problems associated with the women going to work. These include health, childcare, gender role confusion, environmental degradation, population increases and the "westernising" of their culture. There is little evidence to suggest that women have achieved their strategic gender needs by being formally employed. Political, cultural and religious barriers appear to be the main obstacles preventing the women from meeting these needs. While womens' practical gender needs may be being met, the uneven distribution of the domestic workload is creating problems for the household. The situation in the village is a chance to examine the gender role changes and devise strategies for creating a more gender equal community where women and their households face an improved situation. Men must be included in the strategies to change gender roles. This case study concludes with recommendations which advocate a participatory approach to identifying and solving the problems arising from formal employment for rural women in Fiji.... [Show full abstract]
Keywordshouseholds; income; access; resources; gender; employment; women; division of labour; control; development; culture; Fiji; village; PAFCO; participation
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