Work and modesty: The dilemma of women market traders in South India
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This article reflects on the dilemma faced by women in Madras India regarding work and modesty. Women are the majority of petty traders in the informal sector, which offers a short-term solution to those with no or low income. The informal sector demands physical and social mobility which places women to decide between income and violating social norms that might bring social sanctions. In order to protect themselves, women turn to their social relations, either using a male relative as a chaperon or by forming a cohesive group of fellow workers to access the market place while protecting their 'modest' woman reputation. Nevertheless, limited mobility and ability to form a wider network prevents women from capitalizing their market transactions. Women's profits suffer from lack of access to suppliers which diminish their ability to compete on prices and goods.
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