Gendering Livelihoods in Protracted Conflict


Kulatunga, S. T. K., and R. W. D. Lakshman. 2010. “Gendering Livelihoods in Protracted Conflicts.” Paper presented at 2010 Annual conference of International Association for Feminist Economics, Buenos Aires, Argentina, July 22-24.

Authors: R. W. D. Lakshman, S. T. K. Kulatunga


Protracted conflicts give rise to particularly stark gender biases in livelihood of at risk populations. This paper examines how at risk populations maneuver their livelihood assets which are constrained by protracted conflict, to generate livelihoods outcomes. Probing—along the lines suggested by feminist scholars—revealed that there are interesting differences across the ways female and male headships pool resources to cope with protracted conflict. The fieldwork (January-April 2008) conducted in the Anuradhapura district in Sri Lanka involved a sample of 82 households. We find that limited livelihood strategies and insufficient assets to female household heads had impoverished and pauperized them more than their male counterparts. This is supported by rigorous quantitative work as well as meticulous qualitative work. The asset quality of male headships was consistently better that for females. For instance, while 53 percent of male heads of households had passed grade ten only 20 percent of female heads had achieved the same feat. The salience of such asset imbalances in favor of male headships was reflected in the household incomes. Interestingly the lucky few among the female headships who escaped poverty relied on conflict related government assistance such as pensions for war widows.

Keywords: civil war, Sri Lanka, livelihoods, gender, livelihood strategies, vulnerability

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Men, Gendered Power Relations, Households, Livelihoods Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Sri Lanka

Year: 2010

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