Employment in family planning and women's status in Bangladesh

R Simmons, R Mita, M A Koenig
Studies in Family Planning 1992, 23 (2): 97-108
This study investigates how employment in family planning affects the status of community workers. The focus is on three critical variables: prestige, professional status, and social influence. The data are derived from a focus-group study conducted in 1987-88 in the Maternal and Child Health and Family Planning Project in Matlab, Bangladesh. Focus-group sessions were held with community workers, their husbands, community leaders, and community women. Results show that although community workers initially faced intense hostility in the community, they succeeded in maintaining the prestige that is traditionally accorded to women in their conservative, rural society. Moreover, they established themselves as valued health and family planning professionals in a social context where professional roles for women have been extremely circumscribed. Finally, they gained social influence by performing a range of functions in the community that exceed formally prescribed job responsibilities. The professional and social leadership roles that community workers now assume imply a degree of status that seemed inconceivable a decade ago. That such change could result from a well-designed and appropriately managed family planning project deserves careful attention.

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