Journal Articles

Testing the Waters: Young Women’s Work and Mobile Aspirations in India’s Small Cities

Mukta Naik

Social Change

June 13, 2022

While metropolitan cities are framed as emancipatory spaces for women migrants, we know less about their experiences in smaller cities, which are driving urban transformation in India. Drawing on pre-pandemic fieldwork with employed youth (aged 15–29 years) in Mangalore and Kishangarh, this article investigates young women’s work, education, aspirations and mobilities in smaller cities which have relatively weak scalar positions in terms of global economic, political and social power. This article finds that small cities act as regional action spaces for women from villages and small towns to capitalise on fleeting opportunities and push against patriarchal boundaries through mobilities. It shows how women use a range of strategies from individual power tactics within households to leveraging institutional support systems to do so. The article suggests that situating migrant-friendly policy initiatives in small cities can potentially improve employment and mobility outcomes for young women.

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