Thesis on Women in Urban and Slum Areas through the Women’s Autonomy Framework

The Culture of South Asia are lagrely stratified characterized by Patrilinear descent, patrilocal residence, inheritance and succession practices that exclude women and hierarchical relations in which the patriarch or her relatives have authority over family members. 
Women’s Autonomy or Female autonomy has widely been acknowledged as a major factor that contributes to better demographic outcomes. Female autonomy is a multi-dimensional entity, which refers to different aspects of women’s live. The well quoted study of Dyson and Moore in the Indian context on “ On kinship Structures and Female Autonomy” (1983) define Autonomy as “The capacity to manipulate one’s personal environment and the ability technical social and Psychological to obtain information and to use it as the basis for making decision & about one’s Private concerns and those of one’s intimates.” Female education and work participation are being considered as the two major proxy variables of women’s autonomy. 

A number of terms have use to indicate women’s position in relation to men across different socio-cultures the term women’s status has been used in earlier studies to express gender disparities existing in a community with respect to development indicators wither on the micro or individual indicators or macro or structural indicators. However, it is use in other studies to refer to women Vs men positions across social economic and political hierarchies (Mason, 1987) Generally the concept of women’s status implies the women’s position in the structure of a family hierarchy (Mason, 1086, Larsen 2003). 

Other later studies have been used autonomy, empowerment and gender stratification interchangeably in the communities without much conceptual precision (Morgan, 2002; Mason and Smith, 2000; Jejcebhoy, 2000). 

However, women’s autonomy is defined by United Nations as women’s increased control over personal environment through control over resources and in formation in order to make decisions about one’s own concerns or about close family members.” It has been defined as “ the degree of women’s access to ( and control over) material resources (including food, income, land, and other forms of wealth) and to social resources (including knowledge), power, and prestige) within the family in the community and in the society at large” (Mason, 1986: 286). In another study women’s autonomy is defined as “ the ability to obtain information and use it as the basis for making decision about one’s private concerns and those of one’s intimates” (Dyson and More, 1783:37). Indeed, autonomy is gaining power in order to achieving goals and overcome the rigid patriarchal system and general based discrimination against women. 

The linkage between women’s autonomy and utilization of contraception is confronting lack of consensus on appropriate measurement across communities (Morgan, 1995) Some of this confusion may be attributed to the conceptualization of women’s autonomy which has remained a challenge due to the cultural conditions a challenge due to the cultural conditions, family system and to what extends kinship religion and tradition, affected community as well as its multidimensional nature in a sense that autonomy concept can be perceived from individual, household or societal point of view. 

Population Policies and the expansion of family programs during the seventies studies have suggested that greater equality may encourage women’s autonomy and may facilitate the uptake of contraception because of increase female participation in decision making ( Hakim et al. 203), However it has not been set as a prerequisite for wide spread adoption of contraceptives (Amin, 1998). Much of the relevant demographic literature thus has addressed be positive( eleland et al, 1996). In this study, using data from the 2007 DHS the authors investigate the effect of women’s autonomy on her contraceptive use net of the effects of socio-economic demographic and other potential confounders. 

The likes between gender inequality and fertility regulation has focused on women’s “autonomy” (Furuta and Salway, 2006; Cleland et al, 1996). The concept of autonomy is multidimensional hence the factors included within the concept has also varied between authors. For most of the work in south Asia, women participation in household decision making her mobility and control over her financial resources have been taken as indicators of “ autonomy”. And this autonomy is Highly motivated by education. Education put direct influence on women’s autonomy. It increases access to knowledge, information and new ideas. 

Since Bangladesh came into being in 1971, all successive governments demonstrated two things in common with respect to population policy and planning. They exhibited serious concern about the rapid proliferation of human numbers and offered strong political commitment to solve the problems rising out of that (Mabud and Akhter, 1996). In 1976, the government declared the rapid growth of the population as the country’s topmost problem and adopted a broad based, multi sectoral family planning program along with an official population policy. Population planning was seen as an integral part of the total development process of the country and was incorporated into successive five year plans (Menken and Rahman, 201). From 1978 to 1997 Bangladesh government trained and appointed Family Welfare Assistants (FWA) to give doorstep services and by early 1990s evidence showed that this had helped to increase family planning awareness, as well as the rare of the use, contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) increased by over six times during this period rising from 7.7% to 49% (Khuda, 2000). 

The 2004 BDHS found that contraceptive use had increased to 58.1% for all methods (including traditional methods), which indicates that the measures are going in the right direction. Initial reports from the most current DHS (2007, not yet released) finds that the total Fertility Rate has actually fallen to 2.8 births per women in 2007, from 3 births per woman in 2004). 

Educational attainments for girls in Bangladesh were among the lowest in the world up until the early 1990s. In the last decade, there have been major changes and the country is now a global leader in girl’s education. Female adolescent literacy rate was 18% in 1981 that had reached 41.4% in 2001 (Census). Following the SVRS 2007 the literacy rate of adult women is reported to be 46.2%. Since 1991, the Government of Bangladesh (GOB) has encouraged the girl child’s education by providing stipends for female students. Additionally, the government has been actively promoting exclusive girls hostels, quota for female teachers, teacher’s training and availability of books on time. The World Bank has been a keen supporter of this initiative from the inception, funding a large share of the program through interest-free credit. 

Coupled with the efforts of the Government, the non governmental organizations (NGOs) have contributed in improving the rates of female education. A notable NGO Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) has had 10,000 schools for girls who had dropped out from government schools earlier. Given intensive training, good materials and a solid support network, these schools are able to channel 95 percent of the children they teach into the public schools after three years. According to a survey, the gender disparity in the schooled participation rate has almost disappeared for primary level, and has turned in favour of girls at the secondary level (NIPORT 2005.) 

In Bangladesh, the media is also playing a pioneering role in motivating public opinion as well as persuading the government to pay more attention to rural development. Most newspapers highlight successful NGO activities, as they are playing very important roles in Bangladesh rural development and are focused mainly on women. More that 1,500 local and foreign NGOs are involved with rural development activities and they all have a family planning component. 

In the 1981 census only 4.3% women were involved in economic activities which had increased to 10.11% in the 2001 census and reached 19% in the BDHS 2007. The high participation of women in the labour market is expected to pave way for more autonomy and mobility for women as women’s job participation strengthens her with more financial control as well as she has more mobility to travel outside for economic purposes. 

In summary, since 1989, the Bangladesh society has experienced immense success in attaining gender equity both at the educational level and employment levels. No specific research has been conducted to assess or evaluate the association between women’s autonomy and use of contraception, under this new making and a women’s mobility continue to be important predictors of use of modern contraceptive methods in Bangladesh. This study looks at the association of women’s household decision making and her mobility on the use of modern contraceptive methods net of other potential confounders.