Information seeking behaviours of rural women in Malaysia.

AuthorBakar, Ahmad Bakeri Abu


In traditional society, women were supposed to do housework, take care of children, and give the family emotional stability. However, with the social and economic changes that affect our urban and rural society, the traditional values also change. More women are engaged in full-time jobs. No longer are they only women and mothers; they are also business women, politicians, and contributors to society. Rural women who in most cases do not have full time jobs, have also exposed themselves on various fields of financial acquisitions including commerce, service and agriculture. These require them to know how to perform these economic activities in order for them to get more return on their effort. They need to know the way to grow vegetables, how to produce a marketable product and how to advertise the services provided. For instance, a group of women have run a traditional cake production in Negeri Sembilan (Ministry of Agriculture & Agro-Based Industry, n.d.). Women staying at home also can run business through application of information technology through marketing and advertisement (Siti Fatimah Abdul Rahman, 2002).

Since 1991, the government of Malaysia has included in its five-year development plans, a dedicated chapter on Women and Development. On the whole, these have primarily regarded women as resources to be mobilised for national good. Women has been participating actively in the nation's development. The ability and capability of women have been harnessed fully without any form of discrimination. For example the figures for students enrolment in university is currently shows female and male students registered at the university at 69 percent and 31 percent respectively.

Despite progress made by women in all key economic sectors in Malaysia, the majority of women remain concentrated in low skilled and low waged jobs and very few in top managerial and decision-making posts. Women living in rural and remote areas in Malaysia has been documented as lagging behind that of their urban-dwelling counterparts in terms of wealth and literacy. Malaysia's poverty has been a predominantly rural phenomenon. In 1970, 49.3 percent of Malaysian households were below the poverty line. The number of poor rural households as a percentage of the total number of households was 44 percent, the remaining 5.3 percent being urban. By 2002, just 2 percent and 11.4 percent respectively of urban and rural households were living in poverty. Besides poverty the rural households are also faced with problems of illiteracy. This situation is compounded with the emergence of World Wide Web and Internet technologies where digital literacy is important in the knowledge society era. A study done by Mohd Noor (2007) found that " There exists a disparity between the digital/information rich and the digital/information poor among various groups in Malaysia. Coincidently, the pattern is that the former is located in urban areas whilst the latter in rural, as similar scenario as in the case of poverty.

Regardless of location, however, women tend to be the primary seekers of information for their children and other family members, as well as for themselves (Warner and Procaccino, 2004) In rural Malaysia, more often than not, these women will perform the tasks of women for the family. It is pertinent to note here that in the rural setting there is a strong kinship relationships that existed among the villagers, especially among the community of women in the villages. It is believed that women roles have an impact on families and societies. If they perform accordingly their roles and duties, a quality generation will be produced. Of course in order to achieve that, a sufficient amount of information is a necessity. Here, libraries could play an important role of supplying enough information for them.

In addition to taking care of the family, a house wife is also expected to know something on health matters, children education and the family economics. The questions that need to be answered then are the following: What is the information need of women concerning important family requirements? What is their source of information? What is their information seeking behavior? Is there any barrier to information access? What is the best solution for the related problems?

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to identify the information needs of women, to determine the information sources used by rural women in a village of the District of Gombak, in the State of Selangor, to determine their information seeking behaviours and to identify any access barriers to those sources of information. There are altogether nine districts in Selangor...

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