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Women in Sri Lanka’s Export Processing Zones

Dr Peter Hancock is working with Sri Lankan export processing zone (EPZ) workers, as part of research funded by a large, internationally competitive grant by AusAID. The program has made a significant contribution to developing understanding of the role and importance of Sri Lankan female urban EPZ workers, a group that has been negatively portrayed in the Sri Lankan media and parliament.

This project has demonstrated the important contribution made by these women to impoverished families, and in alleviating poverty in Sri Lanka, messages that have been conveyed to project partners and disseminated to a wider audience in Sri Lanka.

The focus of the research is a group of 2500 women in Sri Lanka's EPZs and researchers aim to trace the impact of formal employment on women's status.  Previous studies by Dr Hancock have found that female factory workers in Sri Lanka faced significant societal and community disempowerment as a result of their roles.

This was as a direct result of the ways in which the status of women is controlled and constructed, as well as because of societal resistance to modernisation (and the widely held belief in the associated moral corruption of the nation's women).

As part of the project, community forums were held in Sri Lanka's EPZs in early 2010 and media releases and other publications produced to encourage a positive attitude in Sri Lanka towards women who work in EPZs.

This project has demonstrated the important contribution made by these women to impoverished families, and in alleviating poverty in Sri Lanka, messages that have been conveyed to project partners and disseminated to a wider audience in Sri Lanka.

The project's research will also feed into the teaching of Community Development, a core unit in ECU's Bachelor of Social Science.

Key ECU Staff

Dr Peter Hancock.

Engagement Partners

AusAID, Sri Lankan Board of Investment, Sri Lankan Ministry of Women's Empowerment, Centre for Research on Women (Sri Lanka).

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