THE SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC STATUS OF RURAL LOW INCOME-RECEIVING FAMILIES IN SRILANKA
Ahoja Wickramasinghe(Department of Geography, University of Peradeniya, Peradeniy, Sri Lanka)
In this study a sample of 2,010 household of the low income-receiving social category in the Kegalle district is examined to discover the social and economic status of rural women. In the context of the present research the term ‘status’ is used in the broad sense and aspects such as the relative role played by women in the family economy, and their contribution to the well-being of its respective members and the recognition given to them by the family and the community is examined. If has been found that a definite contrast exists between the offial statistics which normally provide the data base for socio-economic studies as against the data collected by means of field investigation. It is observed that so called “economic inactivity” of most of the rural women is not a result or their idleness, but is a result of a large number of interrelated facts such as inadequacy of income, minimum employment opportunities other than household agriculture, low opportunities for vocational training, restricted access to assets like property, and other facilities such as credit and marketing.
Although women’s contribution to a household unit is of vital importance to a family, the recognition given to such contribution is almost negligible because much of it is utilized for home consumption and therefore not valued as a direct economic contribution. The educational level of women has advanced during the last intercensanal period yet, its effectiveness in promoting the status of women in rural society is not apparent. Their participation in social organizations is not prominent. Yet; the vitality of women’s contributions is a well noted feature within the family domain especially in ensuring the household crop production and family welfare. Still a majority of the rural women of the poorest category are non-wage earners and are individuals who devote time for the uplift of the family welfare, yet, receive no remuneration what so ever. Therefore it is felt that the improvement of women’s social status is a social requisite that is to be achieved gradually by a reformulation of social attitudes and a change in the cultural norms. The aspects discussed in this paper are to be taken into consideration in the process of identifying, formulating and implementing development programmes. Although this study is restricted to one administrative district, the situation highlighted here can be widely seen accross Sri Lanka.
Status, Subordination, Employment, Opportunities, Participation