Photo: H. Smertnik

When ID Works for Women: Initial Findings from Sri Lanka

– Caribou Digital

In this blog post on Medium, Caribou Digital UK researchers Savita Bailur and Hélène Smertnik outline recent research findings on the role of ID for women and work in Sri Lanka

Bailur and Smertnik review findings of interviews and research conducted in and around the Sri Lankan capital of Columbo.

By interviewing factory workers, domestic workers, and garment workers, Bailur and Smertnik conclude that most women have access to ID in Sri Lanka, and using IDs to access work is normal. Furthermore, women who lost their IDs were even more dependent on intermediaries like manpower/employment agencies, village officials, family contacts, or factory bosses.

"I was encouraged to work by my sister who worked in the same factory area. As I was just 17 at the time, I couldn’t be hired to become a permanent employee so I went to a manpower agency who accept those from the age of 16. At the time, I only had the postal identity card not the national identity card. My sister and I have the same initials so I used my sister’s identity card and got the job. After she got married, I couldn’t use her ID anymore, she thought she would get into trouble. But one of the manpower agencies had a set of extra identity cards and photocopies that they would give to people like us who do not have identity cards so I could continue working, factories don’t check photographs just the name."

Anusha, garment factory worker

The researchers take away some key points about Sri Lanka’s relative success in uptake of ID, challenges in replacing IDs, underage hiring, and improving financial inclusion for women across the country.

By and large, Sri Lanka is a country where ID does work for women... As ID ownership is the norm, it is particularly challenging for those who don’t have ID or who have lost it

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