Land and the Patriarchal Bargain
This paper will attempt to examine the changing nuances of women's economic positioning in rural Sindh and probe the possibility of land ownership as a means of empowerment, while exploring the local discourse around it. The paper will be based on findings of field work and data generated by an SDPI research project on women and land rights, focusing on two sites in Sindh - Khairpur and Hyderabad, capturing the dynamics of rural agricultural heartland with intact traditional structures, and urban proximity with resultant outbound migration, agri-disinvestment and changing power structures, respectively. It results from extensive structured interviews with women, surveys with men and group discussions with both, spanning landless peasants, small/ subsistence farmers, medium scale land holders and big land holders from each research site.
It will also attempt to show that women's agency can be read in negotiations with patriarchy, and that being barred from alternative justice frameworks, they have conceded to and demand concessions from a system that has its internal logic and justifiability, and that their conflicts and contestations are expressed within that system. The paper proposes to highlight how pacts with patriarchy subvert conventional approaches to empowerment and illustrate the need to dismantle formulaic categorizations of political, economical, social and cultural solutions common in the development discourse.