Women’s Role in Sri Lanka

woman working at her office desk

Women’s role in a country

Women’s role in a country is an indicator of its social, economic and political standing and the stability. You can see how true this is by observing the differences of the women’s role in the society between Sri Lanka and other countries.

Women’s role in the Sri Lankan society, compared that of the UK where I live, are quite different. What I mean by ‘women’s role’ is not only their career, but it also includes women’s behaviour, attitude as well as their standing in the society.

I have noticed that women in the UK are more confident and forward in the society, compared to Sri Lankan women. Women here stand for what is right and stand against anything wrong. They voice their opinions for any matter that seems relevant.

From the traditional Sri Lankan point of view, this daring personality might seem inappropriate as women are expected to demonstrate an unconditional patience. But this bold behaviour of UK women has its own merits, not just for them, but for the whole society. Since the people here listen to women, as much as to men, with an open mind, the opinions voiced by women never go wasted, either in the family, society or workplace.

Without any doubt, the other countries have gained a quite lot by taking women’s ideas into account and putting them to good use.

Women’s special qualities

In the UK, starting from the Queen, female leaders are present in every cross-section of the country: politicians; heads of government and private companies; and chairs of commissions and boards etc. Also, apparently, every profession and every position has been shining with women’s exclusive abilities. These female attributes ensure that women give more to where they work than what they take away.

We all know that in addition to the skills in their respective fields of specialization, women have an exclusive set of attributes: commitment, loyalty, endurance, honesty, integrity, responsibility, efficiency, compassion, and coordination and multitasking skills etc.

These western countries have well-recognised how these special qualities of women can be exploited in achieving the desired goals of the country. For example, most commissions of national importance in the UK are headed by women who are most trusted by the people. In the UK, it seems that the majority of high-profile people, yet with unblemished characters happen to be female.

Obviously, these countries reap the benefit from women’s intrinsic traits as well as their talents. However, at the same time it is ensured that women’s needs are well taken care of.

Women’s role in Sri Lanka

I have been asking to myself, ‘aren’t these the same skills that the Sri Lankan women possess? Isn’t it the same talent which the Sri Lankan women manage the household matters with and guide the whole family towards success?’

The only difference is what capacity the women get to perform in. In other countries, it is the organizations that thrive from the special qualities of women working for them whereas it is just the individual family units in Sri Lanka that benefit from the same qualities of the women – the mother and/or the sisters in the family.

Though there are women in Sri Lanka who hold leading positions in the government as well as in the private sector, majority of Sri Lankan women’s true potential is focused and limited to handling family matters. Therefore, there is no argument that the Sri Lankan women don’t contribute to the development of the country in the similar capacity as that of other countries.

I am not forgetting here the housemaids and garment workers who generate significant portion of the foreign income of Sri Lanka at present. Yet our discussion here is about the unemployed and the underemployed population of the women.

If we are hopeful about achieving the true goals of the impending socio-political revolution that would make history, it is necessary to redefine the role of the women in Sri Lanka.

Women’s role as a mother

The reason why a significant portion of Sri Lankan women do not directly contribute to achieving the national and large-scale goals of the country could be attributed to their motherhood.

Of course, there is no way we can underestimate the women’s contribution to the society as mothers – raising the most precious next generation of the country. This is true for the whole world. Also, there is no denying the fact that children need their mother with them during their most vulnerable ages in order to grow into healthy youngsters, both physically and mentally.

When we were young, my siblings and I were immensely benefitted from having our mother at home full-time so much so that we almost took it for granted. As a mother myself, only after quitting my full-time job four years ago I realized the real worth of having a mum at home for a kid; I saw my own child finds it a luxury to have mum at home after school. These evenings together are the quality times the kids get to share their secrets with their mother and learn about life from her – the most valuable lessons of life.

So, more than anything, it is best for the kids’ mental wellbeing to have their mother home. Most of the behavioural and mental health problems of people in the adulthood originate from the absence of a mother’s care at the young age when they most need it.

The point is that it is possible for a woman to balance the time between the family (children) and the work. As the children grow, they would not need 100% attention on them, especially if the mother has already laid a sustainable, mental and physical foundation for them to flourish securely. On the other hand, if a mother still waits upon grown up children, like how she did when they were young, the upbringing of those children wouldn’t have been effective. After all, the parents’ ultimate goal is to make their children independent, isn’t it?

Government support for mothers

The governments of other countries have well recognised the women’s potential to directly contribute to development of the country. At the same time, they have understood the significance of women playing mother’s role successfully for creating a healthy next generation.

Those countries have gone above and beyond to facilitate both above purposes by implementing different working arrangements to support working mothers(parents) like flexible hours, work-from-home facilities, parental leave, flexibility to change jobs at any age etc. In addition, there is a well-established network of parenting support systems that include afterschool clubs, breakfast clubs, holiday clubs etc. Those services ease the parenting burden from the parents, so that they can concentrate on their work.

In truth, these parenting facilities and services are available in Sri Lanka too to some extent. However, comprehensive parental rights at work are not yet legally established and being practiced enough to support and encourage the parenting workforce (specially the female workforce) in Sri Lanka. Also, there are setbacks in the quality of service and the diversity of the parenting service providers in Sri Lanka. This matter might not look of high importance, but the impact of accommodating parents’ needs is highly beneficial for the individual employees, employers as well as the country as a whole.

Women’s historical roadmap in UK

When we study a little bit of English history, we learn that there was a significant gender division in the UK society until a couple of decades ago. At the same time, there have been numerous historical female figures: warriors (like Boudica), queens, politicians, inventors, authors, artists and other professionals, who have played a pioneering role in shaping up UK into what it is today.

British women have had many victories over the history in becoming who they are today. It has been a long hard journey for the British women even to win the right to vote and same wages as men. I presume that the persuasive, persistent personalities of today’s British women were inherited from their forerunners.

The whole British nation today pay tribute to the women who shed their blood, sweat and tears in the history, either as leaders or ordinary workers, to build the modern UK. Personally, I find that the British women have been more powerful and daring from the past to present, persistently, than the women in Sri Lanka.

Unleashing the potential

There are significant positive implications that the current Sri Lankan young generation (both men and women) is on the correct path in identifying the women’s role, as evident from the staging of their liberal movement at the Galle Face Green these days. I noticed that the leaders as well as the participation there consist of men and women almost in equal proportions.

Even so, there is still a majority of women in our country, who have never recognised their potential and are oblivious to the better life they miss. It is not just them who lose, by this hibernation of women’s power, but their families and the entire country too.

Men or women, Sri Lankans should not underestimate the unique talent and capacity of women in Sri Lanka. All the layers of the society should support, both physically and psychologically, for unleashing the women’s latent power to make a coveted difference in the country.

Now is the time

More than ever, we need people who demonstrate honesty and humanity as leaders in order to emerge from the crisis we are in today. As discussed, these are the signature qualities of (the majority of) women. In the same way the developed countries do, we need to recognise this unique significance in women and hence, place them in the paramount positions for which these qualities are mandatory.

There is no better time than now to establish the women’s position, participation and responsibility in the development of the future Sri Lanka. This task should be an integral part of the supposed makeover to the system of the country.

Before anything else, let’s initiate the necessary ideological changes across the entire population of the country by making awareness and engaging in interactive discussions, in more detail in future.

I really hope this writing was useful in understanding another facet of the undesirable situation of Sri Lanka today. Please express your ideas below and make this forum a platform for learning the importance of the women’s role as another most important pillar of success of our dream country.

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