Empowered spaces? Management articulations of gendered spaces in apparel factories in Karachi, Pakistan

Kanchana N Ruwanpura, Alex Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Feminist scholarship has often focused on gendered workspaces within the apparel sector, where it is taken for granted that it is work conventionally attracting neophyte women. Within it, the task of managers is to discipline these young women to become docile and malleable workers. While this may have held to be the case temporally and regionally, South Asia’s experience has exhibited country-specific facets. This article focuses on these gendered workspaces in three factories in Karachi, Pakistan, in which we undertook research. In this context, there was a deliberate change in place facilitated by a United Nations Development Program’s Gender Promotion (GENPROM) initiative – to recruit and retain women workers, even though they acknowledged skilled workers were men. The factory managers we interviewed and spoke with used discursive tropes of gender equality and culturally appropriate women’s-only spaces as ways of justifying their labor recruitment strategy. However, digging deeper through interviews with managers at various levels suggested that their recruitment tactic had similar undertones to that revealed by early feminist research – although articulated via different mechanisms. We argue that this creation of empowerment spaces in particular Pakistani apparel sector factories requires careful tracing because it suggests how management interpellations reconfigure worker subjectivities. We also want to suggest that attentiveness to these practices is important because they may have specific bearings on temporal and spatial realities faced by Pakistan.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1270-1285
Number of pages16
JournalGender, Place and Culture
Issue number9
Early online date21 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2016


  • Women workers
  • empowerment
  • feminism
  • Pakistan
  • apparels


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