Women Work and Empowerment: A study of women workers in Sri Lanka's Export Processing Zones

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


University of Western Australia


Education and Arts


International, Cultural and Community Studies




This article was originally published as: Hancock, P. J. (2006). Women Work and Empowerment: A study of women workers in Two of Sri Lanka's Export Processing Zones. Proceedings of TASA/SAANZ Joint Anuual Conference 2006. Perth WA. University of Western Australia. Original article available here


In the last three decades young, predominantly unmarried, Sri Lankan women have formed the backbone of an enormous economic shift toward export oriented industrialisation. As a result much attention has focused upon the impacts and outcomes of this shift upon Sri Lankan women, particularly those employed in the nation’s numerous Export Processing Zones (EPZs). Using both qualitative and quantitative methodology, this paper is a contribution to this canon of literature. While confirming that Sri Lankan EPZ factory women do face serious hardships and new forms of gender inequality and subordination as a result of their roles as ‘factory women’, I also discovered evidence of some of the benefits new and stable employment provide.