Pakistan Institute of Development Economics



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

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.

Tassawar Saeed Israz

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