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Feminist consciousness among Sri Lankan women: A study of women living in Perth and Colombo

Seneviratne, Dona Thalatha Daya Somi (1987) Feminist consciousness among Sri Lankan women: A study of women living in Perth and Colombo. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis is concerned with the study of feminist consciousness among Sri Lankan women living in two metropolitan areas of Perth and Colombo. It examines the attitudes, beliefs and practices of these women which may influence or hinder the development of such a consciousness. The investigation of attitudes in relation to the dominant sex -role ideology would reveal whether women conform to these ideas or whether they deviate from them. Apart from examining attitudes towards the prevailing sex-role ideology the thesis also examines the ideology of feminism as being practiced by a small group of feminists in Sri Lanka.

Open ended interviews were conducted between the periods of March 1984 and July 1985 with four groups of women: two educated middle class, one less educated and of a low socio-economic background and one feminist group. The sample consisted of one hundred non random sample of women with thirty each in the educated middle class groups, twenty nine in the low socio-economic group and eleven in the feminist group. The form of the research is mainly qualitative although some use is made of quantitative data such as percentage tables and content analysis tables.

The analysis of data reveals that the views expressed on feminist issues show variations within the research sample. From the analysis of responses it is possible to construct three groups of respondents : the feminists, the potential feminists and the traditional women. The data also indicates that a certain pattern exists in the development of a feminist consciousness among the feminists. Among these respondents the factors of education and critical life experiences appear to be closely associated. The potential feminists appear to have had some overt critical life experiences but lack liberating educational experiences which are vital to develop feminist consciousness. Nevertheless, these respondents have a greater potential to transcend some of the limitations of the traditional ideology than others who have not undergone critical life experiences. The traditional respondents possess a high educational level but lack overt critical experiences in life. They have managed to enter the public sphere without being aware of their subordinate status in the family and society.

Strategies for change should be directed towards conscientization programmes to develop a feminist consciousness among both the potential feminists and the traditional respondents. This could be achieved through non-formal education programmes and by affecting changes in the formal education system to evolve non-sexist educational programmes. Such changes are vital to free women from the dominant sex-role ideology and its subtle constraints which affect them in all aspects of their lives.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Currie, Jan
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