The Cultural Context of Women's Productive Invisibility: A Case Study of a Pakistani Village

Tassawar Saeed Israz


This paper shows that women in Rajpur, a Punjabi village in
Pakistan, participate substantially in activities that are productive
and are geared directly or indirectly towards producing utilities of
some kind. These utilities are both income-generating and/or
expenditure-saving. Women are extensively involved in many agricultural
and livestock-tending operations, in addition to their involvement in
other productive domains such as poultry-tending, processing of dairy
products, and handicrafts. Whereas men are working in the city to earn
extra cash, women too, are working in pursuit of the same goal. However,
women's involvement in these activities remains relatively unrecognised
within larger cultural pictures and has not resulted in elevating their
status within society. Despite women's productive activities, they are
largely projected as domestic and private beings and their roles as
home-makers, mothers, and nurturers of children have come to be
culturally emphasised to the exclusion of all others. The institutions
of purdah and segregation of sexes which confine women and their
activities to the private domains and permit men access to the public
domains act as effective cultural devices in creating blinders to
women's productive roles. This paper contends that the existing dominant
cultural images of women and the invisibility of their productive
dimensions reflect social values rather than social reality.

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