Written by Mekong Institute

This study addresses the problem of Muslim women, who become single heads of households when their male breadwinners are absent. A gender perspective will be applied in order to analyze Muslim women’s role and status in society. Muslim women acting as single heads of households simply go against traditionally inherited gender norms of Muslim women, as they are expected to perform the roles of an obedient daughter, dutiful wife and good mother who serve as role models for their children. However, the sudden change of the roles of Muslim women affects their ways of life, as can be witnessed in this study.

The main objectives of this study are 1) to examine the roles of Muslim women as breadwinners of the families with regards to securing their families’ livelihoods; 2) to explore the constraints of achieving this objective; and 3) to closely examine the changing roles of Muslim women in securing their livelihoods. As will be demonstrated in this study, at present the family and social roles of Muslim women, who have been affected by political violence, are changing. The main sources of family incomes are now generated by women as breadwinners. One of the major findings of this report is that, despite being satisfied with their personal life and the economic situation of their families, the women continued to struggle hard to secure their own and their families’ livelihoods.

The arguments developed in this study are based on primary data collection. The study field is Pattani province in Southern Thailand and testimonies were given by Muslim women, acting as family breadwinners and who have been affected by the violent conflicts in Southern Thailand. In this particular geographical area, we interviewed many widows and other women whose husbands have been detained in prison for alleged involvements in violent activities. Suggestions will be given at the end of the paper as to how to alleviate the problems Muslim women face associated with violence in Southern Thailand.

Keywords: Gender, Livelihoods, Muslim women as breadwinners, Single head of household, violence in Southern Thailand, political conflicts, Pattani Province, Thailand.

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