Caste identity and access to services: findings from a study conducted in Jaffna

The Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA)

Organisation: CEPA

Country: Sri Lanka

Date: 25/05/2018

Full summary

Very little is known about how water, sanitation, and education services are delivered to and accessed by people in the north of Sri Lanka, or about how class and caste dynamics come into play in access to basic services. In the absence of such knowledge, it is difficult to understand how such marginalised groups may build resilient livelihoods. The Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA), through funding from the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium, conducted a study among two oppressed caste settlements in Jaffna to shed more light on this issue. The methodology included semi-structured interviews with community members, government officials, and service providers, further complemented by informal discussions and observations.


This policy briefing finds that access to basic services, education, water and sanitation are viewed as universal in the Sri Lankan welfare state. But as the cases studied indicate, caste identity continues to be a barrier for some oppressed castes in accessing these services. To ensure that such underserved caste groups have access to the same level of services, the following three recommendations are proposed:


  • Integrate discussions on caste-based discrimination in teacher training sessions
  • Ensure the land tenure of residents of the communities is secured by issuing proper documentation
  • Assess gaps in access to water and sanitation facilities in both settlements and take action to provide sanitation facilities