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Identifying Post-War Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women in Sri Lanka

Poverty levels among women in the war-affected Northern Province are among the highest in the country. Since the end of the war in 2009, there have been several initiatives by the Government, the non-governmental and corporate sector to generate economic growth and income-earning opportunities for women. There is limited information on the availability of these programmes or evaluations of their effectiveness. While, institutional and cultural barriers are known to impede women’s progress, there is a dearth of empirical knowledge, based on rigorous analysis, on how the war, through the loss of human, physical, and capital assets affected the ability of women to come out of poverty and hardship.

The research sets out to identify the barriers that women face in entering and participating in the labour market and in engaging in livelihood activities in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. It will be done through a critical evaluation of the livelihood interventions provided by the state, the corporate sector, donors, and non-governmental organisations. The study will use a survey to gather data from women-headed households and those households where women co-exist with men. Data will also be gathered from vulnerable groups of women. This will be supported by in-depth interviews with vulnerable groups, key person interviews, and focus group discussions.

The findings of the study will inform policy and help catalyze remedial action relating to women’s economic empowerment within Sri Lanka at the national, provincial, and local levels. They will also inform the design of interventions to support recovery from the war, as well as help promote effective and gender-sensitive livelihood empowerment strategies, to enable women to better achieve economic advancement and stability.

The research will be done over a period of three years (October 2014 to September 2017) by the International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES) based in Colombo.

The study is funded by the Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women (GrOW) programme of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC, Ottawa), the Department for International Development (DfID, UK), and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (USA). The programme supports generating new evidence on the nexus between economic growth, gender equality, and economic empowerment for policy and advocacy.

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