Women Empowerment Vis-a-Vis Late Parenting: A Shift in Family Ethos and Priorities in Urban Metropolis in India – Special Reference to Kolkata

Women Empowerment Vis-a-Vis Late Parenting: A Shift in Family Ethos and Priorities in Urban Metropolis in India – Special Reference to Kolkata

Maitreyee Bardhan Roy (Diamond Harbour Women's University, Kolkata, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2819-8.ch012
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The author of the chapter, while focusing on the neo-family ethos in India, indicates how women empowerment has overhauled the traditional family culture in 20th century India in the aftermath of the partition of Bengal and independence. The post-partition empowered women, with their economic independence, gave birth to an inherently empowered and educated women group (as their offspring) propagating late marriage and late parenting through their own practices and also through their fellow Indian citizens located in various urban centres of the country. The post-1990 globalization and liberalization policies have enabled the educated women group to procure skilled jobs with lucrative salaries and attractive service conditions in MNCs and IT sectors. The author of the chapter, through field surveys, tries to display the reality scenario through interaction with those women located in the modern employment sectors in the Kolkata metropolis.
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Background: Class Identities In Kolkata Families

Influenced by the cosmopolitan culture, urban Kolkata always witnessed a diversified class of society with excessive population pressure from outside the State. The first group of migrants were labourers who commuted to the metropolis from different parts of the country to work in jute mills, paper mills and their industrial centres. The burgeoning city population showed an eagerness to maintain their cultural heritage within their territorial boundary, and thus cultural communities grew up in the metropolis during the pre-independent era.

Post-independent Kolkata witnessed the second group of migrants from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) from 1949 onwards. Official records indicate that about 5.7 million population infiltrated into India during the partition (Roy, 1994).They entered the city not only as refugees, but the educated middle class women amongst them captured a significant position in the country by paving the way to women’s employment in Kolkata. The familial economic instability associated with the inherent joint family structure among the middle class refugee groups had enabled the educated women of these families to create a space for themselves in the job market, by entrusting the child care role to the other mothers of the families. This changing trend in the traditional family culture encouraged the ascendancy of middle class women in Bengal’s employment market. The Kolkata society started witnessing the presence of women in other spaces too. This drive towards women empowerment was associated with economic insecurity but this had paved the way for the empowerment of women in India both in education and in the employment field.

Figure 1.

Differences in academic pursuit among men and women, showing the phenomenal growth of women in academics

Source: Women Data Source, 2011 Census Report

The policy of globalization in 1991 intensified the opportunities for educated and skilled women to openly challenge their male counterparts in the employment fields. Consecutively, the eagerness of the IT sectors and the Multi-National Corporations (MNCs) to capture the Indian market intensified the entry of the urban educated middle class women communities into the job market. Referring to the Marxist class structure (Wright, 2015), this class based collective action is responsible for changing the family outlook and strategy among the educated middle class women group in globalized India.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Family Ethos: Family ethos indicate the spirit of a time or society. The Greek root word `ethos` indicate the family ethics. Therefore, the term ethos indicates some ethical tradition that Indian families are expected to follow in the management of their daily affairs.

Kolkata Metropolis: Kolkata metropolitan areas cover the Kolkata urban agglomeration. It is the third most populous metropolitan area in India, with the persistent cosmopolitan culture. The specialty of the metropolitan culture is the containment of locality based cultural integrity through the natural development of the metropolis.

Work-Family Balance: The balanced allotment of time and effort between official duties and family duties in a way that the work front or home front does not suffer, and the woman feels happy and satisfied in fulfilling her responsibilities at both places.

Late Parenting: Late marriage leads to late parenting, because as per Indian family ethos childbirth before marriage is not legally accepted. Obviously late marriage leads to late parenting in India.

Day Care Centre: Centre-based care offered to the children of working mothers while the parents are out for their work. Day care centre is also known as Crèche. It is a French word that also refers to a nursery or day care centre.

Late Marriage: Among the modern educated class, marriages of women are done in thirties and early forties, while the legal age of marriage is 18 years in India. Naturally, the marriages done in thirties are marked as late marriage.

Extended Family: A family which extends beyond nuclear family to include grand-parents, grandchildren, the family of uncle and unwedded aunt. Such extended families are very much prevalent in Kolkata Metropolis and the respondent families are mostly confined to extended families.

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