In this Phase I, the objective was to document, in a comparative manner, how the opportunity structures for women’s education, employment, property and asset ownership and protection from domestic violence have expanded in the countries of this study. The time scope for each country was determined by when major changes to law and policy were made in each country in expanding the opportunities of 1) post-secondary education for women and 2) employment outside of the home for women and 3) employment of female migrant labour for overseas work.
Comparing Muslim populations in Muslim-majority countries and Muslim minority countries, we are able to explore how religion mediates the responses to changes in women’s opportunities and the adaptive choices and processes available to women and families. At the same, by taking a comparative framework, this phase documents the complexity of what role religion plays in constraining or facilitating how women and families adapt to changes in women’s opportunities, how these changes are perceived, and how gender relations and roles are affected in the family.
The research study commenced in August 2013. A large team of 24 students was recruited among the student population of AUW belonging to the 4 countries of the study. This team conducted a one-year desk study into the literature that was available on areas that were related to the study. These included published and non-published material such as journal articles, research studies, books, media reports, internet documents, newspaper articles and so forth. The areas of interest to the study included mainly literature on women’s education, employment, and empowerment: however these themes are inter-woven around a broader spectrum of issues such as Family, Children, Family Planning Health and SRHR (sexual, reproductive, and health rights), domestic violence, Business, ICT and Political Representation. The research assistants collected literature from their respective countries also on national and state policies and created a timeline and summary document of the national/federal level policies for the above themes of policy areas.
Policy contexts are important in understanding the larger environment in which men and women, individuals and families make decisions and what they perceive as opportunities or not. Therefore, for our research, we needed to have a sense of what are the policy contexts regarding women’s empowerment in each of our study countries.
For India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, we looked at both national and state level policies since these are federal systems, where local (state/provincial) governments have the ability to make specific and different regulations in certain areas. For Bangladesh, only state level policies were considered.
The substantial literature that was collected over a period of approximately 10 months was next collated and summaries for each country were written.