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ISEK - Institut für Sozialanthropologie und Empirische Kulturwissenschaft Ethnologie

Ethnographic Research Internship (June-July 2020) in a Swisscontact Project on Financial Inclusion among Garment Factory Workers in Bangladesh

We are looking for a highly motivated anthropology master student to conduct ethnographic research within the ongoing SARATHI project (Progress through Financial Inclusion) in Bangladesh of the NGO Swisscontact. The focus of the ethnographic exploration is women’s perspectives, their choices and agency along with their interactions with power structures in interventions that aim to improve financial inclusion among garment factory workers.

Project Description

SARATHI is a 30-month (January 2018- June 2020)[1] financial inclusion project, jointly funded by MetLife Foundation and Swisscontact. It aims to build an ecosystem where wage digitization promotes financial inclusion of Ready-Made Garments (RMG) workers, while also benefitting RMG factories and building a commercially-viable business model for the commercial banks that participate in the process.

Bangladesh’s RMG sector consists of 45% of the total workforce and contributes to 13% of the total GDP. RMG workers, despite their numbers, remain outside the purview of formal financial services as cash-based transactions have been the primary method of transaction made by and to businesses in the country. SARATHI is working with commercial banks and RMG factories to bring RMG workers, especially women, within the sphere of formal banking services. Through wage digitization, the project empowers RMG workers to conduct financial transactions as account holders and clients. The project activities are directed to find market-based and scalable solutions that address underlying constraints such as inadequate financial literacy; lack of access to formal banking services; and commercially viable business solutions for commercial banks to cater to the needs of the RMG workers.

Your Research

While the project is professionally assessed and evaluated by Swisscontact within the usual structured measurement process, Swisscontact is keen to go beyond that and is interested in an anthropological study assessing the political-economic, social and cultural changes due to the financial inclusion project. It seeks to develop an understanding of the wider impact of financial inclusion and increased income. What has changed in the life of people due to financial inclusion? How do women perceive the changes? How do their choices and agency look like? How do they interact with changing power structures? These are only a few of the questions that might lead an ethnographic exploration of the broader political-economic changes experienced by women in interventions that aim to improve financial inclusion of RMG workers.

The chosen student will be encouraged to develop an independent research project during spring semester 2020 (in the Masterseminar Methoden) within the framework of the Swisscontact SARATHI project. This research would ideally culminate in their master’s thesis in social and cultural anthropology (Ethnologie) at the University of Zurich. Due to the tight time frame of the project, a report for Swisscontact would be due already by the end of August 2020.

Research will be partly funded by the project (contribution to board and lodging, translators, and research assistant) and access will be facilitated by the local partners in the project. Supervision will be provided by ISEK-Social Anthropology.

If you are interested in applying for this research internship please send a short CV and a letter outlining your motivation and a preliminary research idea to by mid-February 2020.


[1] Since it is a Swisscontact internal project, there is a high chance that it will continue for another 4 years.