Government agencies, NGOs and medical personnel profess competing perceptions on Sri Lanka’s female Free trade Zone (FTZ) workers’ reproductive health needs. Varied statistical sources also present and interpret the overall reproductive health outcomes for FTZ workers in differing ways. In this extraordinarily saturated field of power, where different agents and agencies jostle for legitimacy to speak for female global factory workers, the overarching question is where the women workers themselves stand? How do they perceive and respond to discourses and practices within this field? What are their experiences of reproductive health and knowledge and how have their attitudes changed over time? Based on 15 in-depth interviews with workers and a reproductive health survey of 100 workers, this paper seeks to answer these questions. The analyses are also informed by numerous interviews with NGO staff, government officials, health professionals and educators. \
The continuing cultural restrictions and resultant practices of denial and silence surrounding premarital sex render contraceptive usage an “after thought,” leading to workers believing that emergency contraceptives alone allow them agency when managing reproductive choices. While the number of agents and agencies vying to speak for workers’ reproductive rights has increased, nothing much has changed for workers at the ground level, making them marginal actors in these discourses and policy-wars. By demonstrating that workers are neither ignorant about reproductive technology nor naïve about the difficulties encountered when exercising their reproductive rights, I argue that their choice of morning-after pill and abortions is, in fact, a critique of the actors and agencies who represent and advocate for FTZ workers based on their own particular agendas.
Emergency Contraceptives are our Saviors: Sri Lanka’s Global Factory Workers Negotiating Reproductive Health.
Journal of International Women's Studies, 22(1), 38-53.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol22/iss1/2