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Keywords:

  • Bangladesh;
  • garment factories;
  • Islam;
  • mothers’ employment;
  • patriarchal family;
  • son preference

This research note reports on interviews with 120 mothers employed in garment factories in Bangladesh. These mothers express views on the necessity of being married, having sons, and educating daughters that challenge traditional patriarchal practices. They report that men of their families can no longer guarantee women and children lifetime support in the context of extreme poverty and landlessness. Many of them thus choose to assist their husbands, brothers, and parents through wage employment. Their employment creates a space in which these women can begin to make choices and decisions independent of the wishes of the men in their families. Their responses indicate a crack in the traditional patriarchal family system, which requires that a woman be dependent, first on her father, then on her husband, and then on her adult son.