Women in Bangladesh have traditionally been excluded from taking part in social, political and economic activities by means of institutions such as the purdah (veil). However, the rise of the ready-made garments industry in Bangladesh since the 1970s has provided women with opportunities to work outside the home for wages. This change coincided with changes such as a decline in the rural sector, increased emphasis on girls' education and campaigns to improve women's health and reduce fertility. As a result of these changes, the social exclusion of women has reduced considerably. This paper analyses existing literature on women's employment in the ready-made garments industry in Bangladesh using a social exclusion framework. It finds that the impact of the industry on women's exclusion is mixed. Women have greater economic independence, respect, social standing and "voice" than before. However, harassment and exploitation persists. Given the important changes that this industry is helping to bring into women's lives, stakeholders should focus attention on making the industry a more humane and sustainable option for women.
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