Breaking Free or Staying Put? Migration Decisions for Female Students in Central Gujarat, India

Author: 
Molly Fitzpatrick

Breaking Free or Staying Put? Migration Decisions for Female Students in Central Gujarat, India

Author: Molly Fitzpatrick

ABSTRACT

This research report focuses on the ambivalent perspectives of middle class, female students in central Gujarat, concerning the possibility of international migration in the near future. I argue that there are many factors that need to be taken into account when answering the question of why people choose to migrate, and that making the decision to go is never easy. The young women in central Gujarat are all struggling with the prospect of a future abroad. They are clearly torn between two opposing forces. On the one hand they feel the need to break free from the constraints of Indian social control. They see the West as a ‘liberal’ place where they could fulfill their aspirations for independence. On the other hand they are anxious about leaving their familiar environment, family, and friends. They know that a move abroad would constitute a major social, cultural and economic rupture in their lives. 

I argue that this ambivalence between staying and going translates directly into their ambivalent characters. These girls appear to be relatively liberal, freethinking young adults. However, it is important not to overlook that they are continuously trying to live up to their parents’ and society’s expectations. This should not be seen as conflicting, or internally contradictory. Instead, I will show that this ambivalence is in fact symptomatic of their position as middle class girls living in a middle town.