Monday, March 12, 2007

I Start My Survey
March 9, 2007

I did a pilot test of my survey today. My research assistant and I went out to Mirpur (a neighborhood near many of the garment factories) to administer the survey to a few women in order to see if the questions work. As soon as we got out of our CNG, we met a woman who was walking home. We offered to pay for a rickshaw for her if she would take us to where she lived (since we didn’t know exactly where the garment workers’ homes were.) She agreed and we set off down winding dirt roads until we came to an area with many small, one-story semi-pucca (cement walls and tin roof semi-permanent structure) dwellings. We got off of the rickshaws and she took us through a very narrow corridor (I only had one inch of space on either side of my shoulders) to a row of houses. We went inside her house to administer the survey and, of course, immediately several of her friends and neighbors came to see what the foreigner was doing in her home.

She lived in a larger complex with several rooms in it – three rooms were rented out to four women each and the other two rooms were used by the family who owns the house (the bariwala, or landlord). I created the survey to determine three main things: 1) what the income and expenses are for the garment workers; 2) who these women live with and how their money is handled within their household; and 3) what their living preferences are (i.e. if money were not a factor, would they prefer to live alone in studio apartments? with extended family in larger apartments? with their friends?) Though there has been a lot of research done on the garment workers, I was not able to find any recent studies that answered these questions, so it was very interesting for me to learn that the garment worker that we followed lived in a five room house, but that only one of the rooms was hers and that she shared it with two friends and her niece (who was only a couple of years younger than her.) Those four women constituted the “household” as they pooled their money together and chose to live together as a unit of four.

These women shared a bathroom and a kitchen (both of which were outside) with the other people (12 total) in the house. There was only one queen-sized bed that all four of them slept on. (Remember how when I bought my bed the store owner asked me how many people would be sleeping on it and he told me that it would fit five people?!)

We only wanted to interview one person per household, since most of the data would be replicated for other household members. Because there were a lot of spectators, however, we had several other women that we could survey. One of the women actually followed us around for all five interviews! Apparently we were the main attraction that day!

Unfortunately, at our third stop, the bariwala came into the room to see what the excitement was about. She was a very stereotypical bariwala – overweight, nosy, and answering everyone’s questions for them. I was glad that we encountered her on our test, however, because I am sure we will run into more individuals like her when we conduct the real survey. Since my research assistant, Sajeda, administers the survey (it is in Bangla and is verbally administered because most of these women can’t read), we decided that next time when we go, I will bring a camera (Sajeda has a camera that works) and I will tell the disrupting person that I want to photograph her. That way we can get her out of the room and the women will be free to answer the questions for themselves.

Overall the test was successful. We found a few questions that we needed to re-word, added a few more multiple choice answers, and added a couple of additional questions.

One more interesting thing that I learned today was the real reason that none of the landlords in Dhanmondi would rent to me – Sajeda finally admitted that it was because I was a single woman! She was doing all of the translation for me, so I didn’t understand most of what the Dhanmondi landlords were saying. My Gulshan bariwala actually told me this week that he didn’t originally want to rent to me because I am a single woman, but that he liked me, so he decided to rent to me anyway and that now he is glad that he did. I thought it was because I was a foreigner, but my two married friends (who are also American) were able to get an apartment in Dhanmondi easily! And I thought being a foreigner put me above the discrimination!


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