Exploring the impact of childcare provision on the opportunities for women garment workers and their families in Bangladesh

ESRC Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) collaborative doctoral studentship.

Faculty of Business and Law, The Open University with Textile Reuse and International Development (TRAID).



Dr Nela Smolović Jones, Senior Lecturer in Organisation Studies/ Director of GOP research cluster, The Open University

Professor Cinzia Priola, Professor of Work and Organisation Studies, The Open University

Maria Chenoweth, CEO, TRAID

Leigh McAlea, Head of International Programmes, TRAID



The ESRC Grand Union DTP is awarding a collaborative doctoral studentship based in Leadership and Organizational Governance at the Open University. It is being offered in conjunction with TRAID.

This research will explore the impact of childcare provision on the opportunities for women garment workers and their families in Bangladesh. Such provision is enabled by TRAID, a UK charity that has, since 2013, funded and worked with partners Nagorik Uddyog and ChildHope UK to run two day-care centres and two drop-in centres in Dhaka, for the children of garment working mothers. The purpose of the initiative is to provide options, skills, choices and strategies for children and parents, helping them escape the cycle of inter-generational poverty and exploitation.

The successful proposal will utilise social reproduction theory (Bhattacharya, 2017; Federici, 2012; Ferguson, 2020) or other feminist approaches that illuminate the overlapping nature of reproductive and waged labour. The research project will explore the impact that the provision/lack of childcare has on women’s capacities to pursue work that enhances freedom, dignity and comfort. From this basis, the project objectives are to explore:

a) the experiences of garment workers on an everyday basis to better understand the patterns of reproductive and waged work;

b) how the initiatives are affecting the capacity of women to seek better opportunities within and outside an industry;

c) the tangible effects that the initiative has had on the grown-up children of workers;

d) how the initiatives disrupt socio-economic power relations in Dhaka, i.e. the ability of women to: resist at work, negotiate better terms, withdraw the labour of their children and remove themselves from abusive employment.

Proposals will address similar research questions to the following:

• How do workers navigate their productive and reproductive labour with and without access to childcare?

• What is the impact of accessing childcare on the workers/their families?

The researcher will pursue ethnographic methods that allow rich insight into the experiences of workers and their families. Design will be informed by feminist principles of relational research. The focus of the fieldwork will be on women garment workers in Dhaka. A secondary focus will be adult former users of the initiatives. The researcher will need to interview selected TRAID and partner staff to gain background knowledge and insight.


• Appelbaum, R., and Lichtenstein, N. (Eds.). (2016). Achieving workers' rights in the global economy. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

• Bhattacharya, T. (2017). Social reproduction theory: Remapping class, recentering oppression. London: Pluto Press.

• Federici, S. (2012). Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle, Brooklyn/Oakland: Common Notions/PM Press. Ferguson, S. (2019). Women and work: Feminism, labour, and social reproduction. London: Pluto Press.

• Jaffe, A. (2020). Social Reproduction Theory and the Socialist Horizon. London: Pluto Press.



TRAID is a UK charity working to tackle the negative socio-environmental impacts of producing, consuming and wasting clothes. The charity funds projects to improve sustainability and the lives of garment workers. Since 2013, the charity has funded an initiative in Dhaka, Bangladesh, supporting the children of garment working mothers. The initiative consists of four centres for children. The first two are day-care centres, providing learning and play for children aged between 2-5 under the supervision of trained teachers and social workers. The second two are drop-in centres, working with children aged between 6-16, focusing on literacy, numeracy and life skills support. To date TRAID has invested £622,600 in the initiative, which cares for around 200 children per year.

TRAID, working with its partners Childhope UK and Nagorik Uddyog, will provide the successful student with:

• Desk space in its main office in Farringdon, where the student will be able to use office facilities, such as internet access, printing materials and stationery, etc.

• Access to TRAID staff, enabling regular interaction, as well as participation in meetings and discussions. This access will allow regular opportunities for brainstorming and debriefing activity.

• Facilitate introductions with Nagorik Uddyog and ChildHope UK, which administer and run the initiative being investigated.

• Introductions to the staff at the four childcare centres.

• The provision of working space within one or more of the childcare centres.

• Access to working parents who benefit from the centres, and adults who attended the centres as children.

• Access to meetings in Bangladesh involving staff, parents and partner organisations.

• Access to classes to inform background knowledge of the research.

• Access to existing data on the initiative, such as archival material – videos, brochures, reports, etc.

• Support and advice on how to navigate Bangladesh as a research site.



The PhD studentship will be funded by the Grand Union DTP for an expected 3 years (or part-time equivalent) from October 2023. The award length offered may differ depending on the candidate’s prior training and how they meet ESRC training requirements. The part-time option is only available to students with a Home status, or those that do not require a Visa for study in the UK.

Information about Grand Union DTP ESRC studentships and eligibility can be found on the Grand Union DTP website.



12:00 midday UK time on Wednesday 11 January 2023



To apply for the studentship, you must submit:

  • A cover letter outlining why the proposed project is an important area of study, how your background relates to the selected research topic and why you wish to study at The Open University in partnership with the ONS.
  • An outline research proposal of no more than 2,000 words, including background to the research topic, proposed research questions, methodology and methods. Your proposal can draw on the description of the research detailed above. Please specify how your previous research experience would allow you to contribute to the project.
  • An academic CV that includes contact details of three academics.
  • An Open University application form, downloadable from: http://www.open.ac.uk/postgraduate/research-degrees/how-to-apply/mphil-and-phd-application-process
  • A Grand Union DTP Application form, downloadable from: https://www.granduniondtp.ac.uk/how-apply#tab-1440826 

Applications should be sent to fbl-phd@open.ac.uk by 12:00 Wednesday 11th January 2023.

The admissions process is in two parts: applications will be assessed by the institution and the selected candidate will then be assessed as part of the applicant pool for ESRC Grand Union DTP funding.



For queries about this studentship, please contact Nela Smolović Jones: nela.smolovic-jones@open.ac.uk and Cinzia Priola: cinzia.priola@open.ac.uk.