Although most women in India work and contribute to the economy in one form or another, cultural practices vary from region to region and much of their work is not documented or accounted for in official statistics the photographer Kristian Bertel tells in this story.
Women are responsible
Women plow fields and harvest crops while working on farms, women weave and make handicrafts while working in household industries, women sell food and gather wood while working in the informal sector. Additionally, women are traditionally responsible for the daily household chores for instance cooking, fetching water and looking after children. Since Indian culture hinders women's access to jobs in stores, factories and the public sector, the informal sector is particularly important for women. There are estimates that over 90 percent of working women are involved in the informal sector. Female labour sectors and conditions the informal sector includes jobs such as domestic servant, small trader, artisan, or field laborer on a family farm. Most of these jobs are unskilled and low paying and do not provide benefits to the worker.
Working women in India
More importantly, however, cultural practices vary from region to region. Though it is a broad generalization, North India tends to be more patriarchal and feudal than South India. Women in northern India have more restrictions placed on their behavior, thereby restricting their access to work. Southern India tends to be more egalitarian, women have relatively more freedom and women have a more prominent presence in society. Cultural restrictions however are changing, and women are freer to participate in the formal economy, though the shortage of jobs throughout the country contributes to low female employment. But in the recent years, conditions of working women in India have improved considerably.
"More and more women find themselves in positions of respect and prestige, more and more workplaces are now populated with women who work on equal terms as men"
Working is no longer an adjustment, a mere necessity, but a means to self worth and growth. Injustice construction workers are unskilled and illiterate workers, which make them very vulnerable to exploitation. Being part of an unorganized and fragmented sector their bargaining power is low and they cannot easily fight against injustice. Labourers are often not paid minimum wages and even the agreed wages are not paid in time. Throughout human history, traditional gender roles have often defined and limited women's activities and opportunities and many religious doctrines stipulate certain rules for women. With restrictions loosening during the twentieth century in many societies, women have gained access to careers beyond the traditional homemaker and the ability to pursue higher education.
About the author
Kristian Bertel (born 1980) is a Danish photographer who is most widely known for his series of Indian images, which started as a long term project on India in 2008. Here he started taking humanitarian pictures of the Indian people and their living conditions.
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