Women of Thailand : A minor field study about how nine women in urban and rural areas of Thailand look at their lives in the area of education, gender equality and influence in society, from a democratic perspective.

University essay from Linköpings universitet/Avdelningen för Socialantropologi


This study is based on a field study carried out in Thailand during November and December 2009. The material is based on in-depth interviews with nine women that live in the northern parts of Thailand. Seven of them belong to the Karen minority group. The purpose of the study has been to highlight the different perspectives that exist in the city, and in the rural region, in the question of education and employment, equality in the household, and participation in society within the political area. The theoretical perspective has been preceded from a democratic perspective at an individual level.

The results show that education is relevant in how women see themselves, and also gender equality in the household can be connected to influence in social life outside the household. This also shows that traditional norms play an important role. Especially in the case that the woman traditionally in Thailand has been responsible for the household, while the husband in the family has had responsibility for political decisions in society. Education can be seen to provide better conditions in life for women; an opportunity for more jobs, as well as an opportunity for an income. One difference is that for some rural women, educational aims are to learn to read and write Thai, while all the women in the city point out that a degree from the university is important.

The comparison for women's responsibilities in the household and child-rearing shows that the rural women I interviewed in general are taking a greater responsibility in the household since the husbands are working a lot. The women in the city split the household chores more often between husband and wife. The Karen women I interviewed have highlighted the importance of the family, and then also their relatives. In the past, minority groups have been more vulnerable in the country, which could play a part in that family and relatives still are an additional safety net.

In the area of participation in society outside the household, women in the rural area strongly believe that participation on a political level is an issue for men. And despite higher degree of education the women don’t have an increasing interest in participating. The women in the rural area though live close to the political authorities, which means that the majority of the women there have spoken directly to the leaders and thus can influence. Here, the level of education does not matter.  

The women in the city have not talked directly to the leaders to the same extent. Meanwhile, one of the women in the city has engaged herself politically. She thinks she could get respect, both as a woman and as Karen. She also sees that the possibilities for women to participate are growing in the cities, where the level of education generally is higher. Though, the other interviewees in the city would not want to be politically active. The only interest for them is to read about the situation and to vote. The women also speak about the leader as corrupt and selfish, which leads to low confidence in politicians.  

Finally, the study shows that traditional norms are still strong in the country, despite education and more equality in the household. Especially that woman should be responsible for the household, while the husband involve in social issues. This is shown particularly in the rural areas. In the city however, this is not highlighted in the same way. The women there have freed themselves more from the traditional norms. And two of the women with a higher degree, can run a household on only one salary. Several of my interviewees have also been moving between urban and rural areas. This makes transition between urban and rural areas not as strong as it were earlier, now it’d more gradual. At the same time the women have an everyday life in the specific social context, which result in that traditional norms are still stronger in the rural areas.

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