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Impact of Intimate Relationships on Livelihood Activities of Women Affected by War in Northern Sri Lanka

Research Papers

Impact of Intimate Relationships on Livelihood Activities of Women Affected by War in Northern Sri Lanka

The study explored the impact of intimate relationships on womens livelihoods in a post-war context. It looked at how 1) gender norms, beliefs, and practices 2) marriage, and 3) termination of an intimate relationship, impact on womens livelihoods. Intimate relationships form an integral part of a persons social capital that plays a significant role in livelihood opportunities. The analysis was based on 30 in-depth interviews with women in female- and male-headed households throughout the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. Gender norms, beliefs, and practices in the region expect a woman to be cared for and protected by a husband or a male figure such as father or brother. Seeking livelihoods and managing independently in society has been neither easy nor expected of women; a situation particularly challenging for the widowed and the separated.

In addition to being traumatized by the experience of war, many women have been abused financially, physically, and/or emotionally by their husbands. Severance of such marriages provided emotional relief for women. However, in the absence of a husband, they have been left with the responsibilities of the family breadwinner in a cultural context not fully conducive to working women. The fact of not having their self-dignity harmed by an abusive husband seems to be of crucial importance in determining a womans success. Widowed and separated women who have had non-abusive husbands and some capital to invest in a business have faced the challenge of livelihoods more successfully than those with abusive husbands.

The findings reveal the importance of psychological interventions to support these women, along with financial support necessary for livelihoods. The issue of a tarnished self-dignity, which is detrimental to a womans social capital, seems far greater than the issues of not having access to financial capital.

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