Migration Narratives: The SHRAM Blog

Expanding Social spaces for women: Arpita Banerjee (NIUA)

What does Migration mean? Let us start from the entry point of what migration mean to women. It is well documented in numerous migration literatures that migration is mainly a response to the work/job opportunities available in the new place (Basu 2001; Dayal and Karan 2003) and it has enhanced the economic and the social status of the migrant as well as his/her family (Brody 2006). I would argue on what migration has actually brought to a woman.

Migration goes beyond the economic justification towards the larger role it plays in expanding social spaces and the ‘anonymity’ a city offers to the life of migrants.

During a field survey in Kolkata, I came across several narratives of women. On one side they feel the pain of being separated from their rural abode – “…in the city I have the family members while all the relatives are in the village. Though I am attached to this place, yet my village is ‘des’ and this (Kolkata) is ‘pardes’” (a migrant from Darbhanga, Bihar).

On the other hand women are contented after migrating to Kolkata. The anonymity the city offers liberation (to some extent) from the strict patriarchal roles operating in closely knitted rural communities which has allowed women to carry out certain daily life activities. Such activities were not possible in rural settings. As a migrant from Gopalganj narrated – “My in-laws are very strict. After several years of marriage I have never explored the entire village. Even standing in the terrace was prohibited for us. Such behavior persists even today when an occasional visit is made to the village”.  Quite contrastingly, another narration depicts how the unrestricted city environment has enabled her to work in public domain – “I never went out much in the village…..I also felt somewhat ashamed. Moreover, I never thought of working in the village. But the city offers job even to the illiterate or least educated. In the city it is very difficult to make the both ends meet, if I don’t work. Every morning I work with my husband as a street vendor, selling sattu (chana flour). I need more income to support my family.  It does not matter what others think and talk about me” – 35 year old migrant from Aurangabad, Bihar.

Thus, migration not only involves economic benefit/loss – it has far reaching impacts in the mindset of the people – there is a profound hope to find a new identity in an alien space.



Basu, R. 2001. ‘Migration and Migrants in Calcutta Metropolitan Area’, Geographical Review of India, 63(4): 344-354.

Brody, A. 2006.  ‘Beyond Duty and Desire: Reconsidering Motivations for Thai Women’s Migration to Bangkok’ in in Anuja Agrawal (ed.), Migrant Women and Work, New Delhi: Sage Publications, pp116-137.

Karan, A.K. 2003. ‘Changing Pattern of Migration from Rural Bihar’, Land and Development, 9(2): 155-195.

Aritra Chakrabarty

Aritra Chakrabarty

Anchor, SHRAM (Till Dec 31st, 2014)

As a social researcher, I believe in knowledge-based policy action. With a postgraduate degree in Development Studies, I've been associated with social issues in my professional space. As a part of SHRAMIC initiative, was involved with data creation, sourcing of resources that will become the knowledge bank of this project.
Aritra Chakrabarty

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