Stimulating the Engagement of Women in a Muslim Community in Ahmedabad, India
Linden, I.Y. ter
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This research has taken place in Ahmedabad, which is in the top ten of the biggest Indian cities. There are many slums in this city and one has been of particular interest for the research, namely Juhapura. The slum is inhabited by Muslims and it has been growing in size at a fast rate, especially since the 2002 riots between Hindus and Muslims, where many Muslims moved to the area. Several organizations are active in Juhapura to support the Muslim community that has been structurally ignored by development initiatives from the government. The conditions in this area are lamentable, education and health services are very limited and infrastructure and roads are rare in most of the newer parts of the area. Muslim women in India can be even more vulnerable than other women because they are a minority and because of the religious context. Although the Islam in itself does not necessarily put women in a vulnerable position, the interpretations of patriarchic religious institutions can influence women in their possibilities of participation, engagement and choices. As such, women in Juhapura are considered as a vulnerable group and different organizations implement programs aimed at their empowerment. One of these organizations is SAATH, which has been the host organization of the research. It has experience in Juhapura and development work since more than 20 years and the organization now decided to set up a vocational training program intended for women in this area. The goal of the research was to determine whether women are interested in trainings aimed at being placed in a company or organization, and the type of trainings in which they are most interested. SAATH implements a grassroots approach to development and this has also been adopted for the research. According to this, the research question has been defined as such: How can the engagement of women be stimulated in the Muslim community Juhapura? The term engagement leaves space for interpretation, it can be in the form of vocational trainings but also in other activities that increase women participation in general. The research question has enabled a much broader qualitative research that focused on the position of women in the area and on the opportunities and constraints on engagement that concern women. Different sub-questions have been defined to support the research question and will be answered in the thesis after providing an overview of the theoretical approaches used in the research, namely grassroots approach, participatory development and empowerment. The first sub-question addressed in the research is as follows: To what extent does the environment stimulate engagement and participation of Muslim women? The context in India, Gujarat, Ahmedabad and Juhapura have been described respectively and the position of women and Muslims has been underlined. The second sub-question is: What are the main factors influencing socio-economic engagement and participation of Muslim women in society? In order to answer this question, the environment of Juhapura and in particular the livelihood of women, have been described first. The influences of the main social relations of women with their environment, the human capital and skills of women have also been discussed. Lastly, the economic situation of households and women in Juhapura has been described. The third sub-questionis: What opportunities can be defined for Muslim women? To answer this, the institutional landscape in Juhapura is illustrated first to define the opportunities that already exist in the area of interest. General constraints, such as a lack of awareness and low access to information, and more personal constraints to the participation of women in activities have been elaborated thereafter. The chapter ends with a discussion on women’s dreams and aspirations to illustrate what women really want themselves. The fourth sub-question is as follows: How can the capabilities of Muslim women be strengthened? It focuses on the vocational training center that SAATH is willing to start up because it is important that it suits to women from Juhapura in order to stimulate their engagement. The last sub-question is: What role can SAATH play in addressing the issues influencing engagement an participation of Muslim women, both on the individual level and on the larger society level? The main findings of the research are used to elaborate on recommendations for SAATH with respect to the vocational training center for women in Juhapura.