Changing Roles of Women Discussed at College of Wooster

Wooster, Ohio.  First paragraph missing.

During this discussion, a part of the annual Women’s Week activities, representatives from Thailand, India, Japan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh spoke on the status of women and the women’s movement in their home countries.

The role of women in Asian countries is different than that in the West; likewise, the position of the women’s movement is also different.  Such factors as poverty, over-population and traditional roles tend to put much emphasis on general equality rather than on feminism, according to many of the students gathered.

“Women are a necessity in our agricultural nation,” said Vin Osatanancha, a student from Thailand.  Through their participation in the agricultural process, they are “treated as equals,” he stated.  Furthermore, this equality is making its way into the cities.  Today, he claims, women now fill many positions in government and business in Thailand.

New additions to the campus include Henry Luce III Hall.

The trend in Japan is toward Westernization, said Hisako Kurata.  She believes the women should “stay home, take care of the children, serve “their husbands.”  The choice, according to this Japanese student, is between work and being a housewife.  “They cannot do both,” Kurata maintained.

Because Malaysia is a multi- racial society, generalizations are impossible, states Wai-Chun Lai.  For Chinese-Malaysians, however, Lai feels there is a genuine dichotomy between women of the upper and lower classes.  Female children are often not preferred, for example, as they are seen as a detriment; they cannot get the “good jobs” to help support the family as well as men can in this Southeast Asian nation.

ln Sri Lanka a system of arranged marriages and dowry still exists, according to Sandesh Selvaratnam.  As in Thailand, women seem to achieve equality in the rural areas.  “They have equal (status in the fields, but the social structure is different;” they are not as equal at home.  Urban women face more difficulty with inequality, Selvaratnam continued.  In the city, “the woman-should-be-at-home mentality dominates, he said.

Women are ready to enter the work force in Bangladesh, said Shah Mohammed Hasan.  Unfortunately, he said, there are no jobs.  The stigma traditionally attached to working women, however, is “on its way out” if not gone already, Hasan said.  One reason for the ability of many women to work is the availability of other women `to help in their – households.  This employment of domestic help leads to even more women being hired.  Unfortunately the women at this lower end of the economic scale must leave their children at home when they leave to work for the upper classes.

Jairaj Daniel with his wife Sindhu in their home in India 28 years later.

Asia is a large continent and its countries range from Japan to India; there tend to be as many differences throughout the region as there are similarities.  According to Jairaj Daniel, “it is imperative to stress the cross-cultural aspects of each nation.”  Comparisons between the Western women’s movement and the women’s movement in India tend to be ethnocentric, he said.  “In India we’re fighting 6,000 years of history… of subservient slavery; the bondage of women,” Daniel continued.  Yet a clause already exists in the Constitution of India similar to that proposed by the ERA, he said.  The main problem in Third World countries of Asia, according to Daniel, is poverty.  The women’s movement, he concluded, must fight against poverty as well as sexual inequality in this area of the world.

The forum was held in conjunction with Women’s Week.  It was coordinated by Sophia Sasmita, a sophomore from Indonesia, with the assistance of Tessie Tzavaras, a junior from Greece.  The event was sponsored by Babcock International Hall at the College of Wooster.


Originally published in The Voice, The College of Wooster, Feb. 26, 1982.  All photos have been inserted in 2010.

When I was on campus during my four years with the College of Wooster (Cultural Area Studies – East Asia major), I lived in Babcock Hall.  Built in 1935 as the gift of Birt E. Babcock (1894), the hall continues to be co-educational,  Recently renovated, Babcock Hall re-opened in the fall of 2009 and is the home of the Cross Cultural Living Experiences Program (CCLEP).  Residents include students who have expressed their desire for a cross-cultural living experience. Residents should be interested in broadening their understanding of world issues, sharing their culture; and learning about other cultures.  Many residents are interested in foreign languages, cultural area studies, overseas study and travel, the various aspects of international relations.  At the president’s request, I told Hank Luce how grand it would be to have a Luce Hall on campus in about 1980.  He slapped me on the back and told me, “Go for it!”

Also by Jim Luce:

My Appalachian Memory: Youth Paint House, Learn About Appalachia

Addressing Phi Theta Kappa on Social Responsibility

Fall Pick: American University of Nigeria

U.S. Border Policy: How To Fix What’s Broken

Leila Hadley Luce: The Last of the Great Luces?

Growing Up Internationally – in Ohio

Tokyo of the Mind: A Study of the Figurative Language of Abe Kobo

About Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens

View all posts by Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce ( writes and speaks on Thought Leaders and Global Citizens. Bringing 26 years management experience within both investment banking and the non-profit sector, Jim has worked for Daiwa Bank, Merrill Lynch, a spin-off of Lazard Freres, and two not-for profit organizations and a foundation he founded. As Founder & CEO of Orphans International Worldwide (, he is working with a strong network of committed professionals to build interfaith, interracial, Internet-connected orphanages in Haiti and Indonesia, and creating a new, family-care model for orphans in Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

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