Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gender summit paved way to build stronger networks in the region

In South Asia, nearly all countries have a constitutional mandate providing equality to men and women in all walks of life. However the ground realities are very different. The patriarchal mind sets continue to exclude women from most decision making positions and the gender disparities further manifest in socio-economic status seen clearly through various discriminatory indicators. Often women’s concerns and issues do not receive the attention they deserve due to their lack of access to positions of powers. In certain areas such as education and employment there has been headway, though ingrained societal and gender norms continue to hamper development. According to World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2008 out of 130 countries for which data is available Pakistan ( rank 127), Nepal (120) and India (113) come in the bottom 20 countries ranking. Bangladesh at rank 90 fares much better relatively, and Sri Lanka at 12 ranks the highest in the region. The Index benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, political, education and health~based criteria, and provides country rankings that allow for effective comparisons across regions and income groups, and over time.

Locating Women Leaders in South Asia : Gender Summit 2011 was held from 3rd of November to 5th of November 2011in Dhulikhel, Nepal. Representatives from India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka took part in the summit. It was organized by Friedrick~Ebert~Stiftung India and Nepal office.

Human development, if not engendered, is endangered

Three day intense summit was divided into keynote and plenary session. It covered topics including women in informal sector (Lived experiences across South Asia, Negotiation, struggle and Survival and Country specific best practices), women in peace and security (Women and Conflict, Negotiating conflict and security issues and Women waging peace), and women in decision making (Politics and Women, From followers to leaders and Women as leaders: way forward).

The gender summit was held to serve as a platform for discussion and debate on varied issues which enabled us to improve our capacities, share experiences from the region and build stronger networks.

Feminists in South Asia demand democracy and peace in the region

"Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without!" ~ Lord Buddha

South Asian Women's Day is celebrated despite heavy downpour,thunder,lightning and blowing wind in SriLanka

South Asian Women’s Day celebrates the voices of South Asian women, their rights and belief in peace, justice, human rights and democracy. Following the declaration of this day by SANGAT ~ A South Asian Feminist Network ~ in 2002, every year, several organisations have come together as part of the 16 Days of Activism against Violence (25th of November to 10th of December) to express South Asian women’s solidarity for peace, justice, human rights and democracy. This year's South Asian Women's day marks the 10th anniversary.

Banner by SANGAT

We South Asians believe that the people of South Asia can bring peace and prosperity for all through friendship and cooperation. This can be done if we create and strengthen a South Asian identity across borders. Discussions, poetry, song and dance and so on mark the evening. This year South Asian Women’s Day is celebrated in several places in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka by people who are committed to South Asian-ness, peace, democracy, justice, human rights, secularism and pluralism.

We in South Asia have a lot in common from our religions, languages, arts and trade. Many of us in South Asia have our roots and connections to other countries in the region in one way or another. Also as women we face similar concerns for our safety, security, freedom and access to resources in the private and public sphere. As feminists our sister spirit goes beyond borders to support each other and create deeper bonds of friendship. As women with shared stories of oppressions it is easier for us to connect with each other. As South Asian feminists we welcome our Governments commitments at the recently held SAARC meeting for easing the visa regimes to increase mobility between the countries and encourage people to people contact. We do hope this will translate into reality to create a South Asian community. We believe that as a South Asian community we can bring peace and prosperity for all through friendship and cooperation.

Creative banner by SANGAT

To strengthen the bonds of friendship and peace with people from South Asia, Sangat celebrates the day South Asian Women's Day on 30th November each year from 2002 with its usual spirit of solidarity with friends and partners in many towns and cities of South Asia. Initiated by Sangat and its network of women and men in the year 2002 as part of the International Fortnight against Violence against Women (25th November ~ 10th December), the South Asian Women’s Day is being marked by an increasing number of students, activists and civil society members all over the region.

Every year, men and women of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Tibet gather to speak in one firm voice about the need to reinforce democracy, peace, human rights and dialogue in the region. We gather in different cities across the region to light candles at the same time (between 5.30. p.m. and 6.30 pm.) to express solidarity with the people of the region, and demand democracy and peace.

SANGAT banner is on display

Monday, November 28, 2011

Through the Northern Eyes ~ An Exhibition of Photographs

Photojournalism provokes conversation and though which all good journalism should do. The exhibition provides an excellent teaching opportunity, fostering discussion about how we cover events of our time the need of society while talking about the profession and craft of journalism”~ Michael Parks (April 24, 1940 ~ ). American Actor and Singer

Sinnapillai Sinnamuthu (68) is a widow, her daughter is a widow and her grand daughter is a widow due to the bloody war in Sri Lanka

The first ever photo journalism exhibition was held in Jaffna from 21st of November 2011 to 23rd November 2011 at Media Resources and Training Centre, University of Jaffna. Photos taken by the participants were on display. They were trained in basics in photojournalism, difference between photography and photojournalism, camera handling, light, angles, composition, capture various moments including news photos, write caption, ethics, safety for photojournalists and visual story telling through photo journal. The professional training was conducted for 10 days. Journalism students (diploma and degree) and working journalists in the peninsula including some senior men journalists have shown great interest in learning from a woman trainer.

They have managed to capture photos, despite the continuous heavy downpour in Jaffna. Photos depicting fishing, demining, resettlement, historical buildings and places, livelihood, religious rituals, people and post war development were captured vividly. Most of them shared with me during the training "Miss!, I never handled a camera, and do you really want me to go to the field and capture photos? How can I do?". But, I am glad to note and share that they have captured terrific moments of life in the north of Sri Lanka.

I never thought that ethics should be followed in photo journalism as well. But now, I am trained to follow ethics while taking photos” shares Puvitha Paramalingam, student of diploma in journalism.

Photographs illustrate the lifestyles of Jaffna peninsula.

I am glad to see the authentic Jaffna culture is depicted in the photos displayed on the wall around us. We have great potential. We should explore our hidden talents more and more” says Vice Chancellor of University of Jaffna Professor Vasanthy Arasaratnam.

The term "photo journal" or "pictorial" or "photo essay" was new to many.

An excellent collection of photographs are displayed. More of this kind of training for media is needed” says Daya Master, Head of Operations, DAN TV with his usual big smile.

Although I am unable to understand Tamil, but I can see the destruction caused by the conflict through these photos” shares a Sinhala viewer.

"Please extend training such as this to devastated Vanni region as well. People in Vanni need to learn too" a humble and emotional request is made by Latha Kodeeswaran while tears filled her eyes.

Photo journal of fishing story in Munai, Point Pedro

Participants with the trainer

The Chief Guest, Vice Chancellor of University of Jaffna Professor Vasanthy Arasaratnam is taking a closer look at the photos

1930 ~ 1950 is considered the "Golden Age"of photojournalism

Senior lecturer of Lingustics, University of Jaffna Vimal Swaminathan viewing the exhibition

This is the first exhibition for many participants

Many photos foster discussions

Rare opportunity to view photos related to news

Photos of current resettlement in Selvapuram in Maavittapuram

An array of angles taken by the participants

Photos Palmyrah weavers from Tholpuram

Photos of footwear maker Velautham Uthayashankar in Vathiri

Daya Master viewing the rare exhibition

Students of Jaffna Hindu Collge viewing the photojournalism exhibition

Photos of a painter and his paintings at Maavittapuram Kanthaswamy temple which is currently being renovated

Photos of tobacco makers Ponnuththurai Suntharalingam and Azhagar Vairavanathan from Navakkiri

Photos of roosters in Maruthankerny at early morning

Photo of rare religious rituals in Mallaagam

Sharing some moments

Photos of demining in Thellippalai

Photos of traditional livelihood of Jaffna

Photos of Manalkaadu in Jaffna

Photo of freshly caught fish

Comment is being cast

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sustainable development is "only possible" with people’s participation

Sri Lanka is under post war recovery. Many development projects are underway in the country, including the war torn North and East of Sri Lanka. Roads are being renovated and highways are being expanded.

The government plans to promote tourism, and expects two and a half million tourists yearly by 2016, and double the hotel rooms to meet the demand. Tourism industry drew U$ 1.6 billion for investment during the first half of 2011. 750,000th tourist in year 2011 was welcomed on 24th November 2011.

"STOP Land Grabbing in the name of Development; Ensure Life and Livelihoods!" reads the banner

Joseph Francis Croos from Mullikulam in Mannar district in North West of Sri Lanka got displaced multiple times. He is unhappy and requests humbly to be resettled in his own village.

My village Mullikkulam is a fertile land, where we do farming and fishing. It has six rivers. My village is a prosper one. We were told by the authorities; we can go to the Church and do farming, but cannot be resettled. We had our church feast in August 2011. But we have not got the permission to go, light candles, fulfill our vows, garland our Mother Mary and celebrate the feast.

Recently, we were told that we will be resettled in some other place. How can we live in some other place? We have our own lands and farming fields. We cannot abandon our lands and go and live somewhere else. We are not ready to lose our lands
” Joseph Francis Croos.

Reverend Sister Marelene Perera is a Catholic Nun who is involved in the mission of building humane communities in Sri Lanka. She helps the victims of current development in Polonnaruwa, North Central Province. She says development should allow the people to participate.

For me, development is to enable all peoples in the country, all different groups of people to live with dignity and meaning. And, for our country I would say, we must add another one. Because we have a lot of people in this small country, different religions, different ethnicities, rich and poor. We must create the space and also an environment whereby all these people could interact with trust and confidence. Be involved and participating with a great sense of belonging. That’s what I mean by development. Development should be integral, means spiritual, social, economic, personal and also political.

But, what I see is on trust economic. And this economic trust going towards tourism is making us more and more dependent on others. When we are dependent on others, can we live with dignity? Can we live meaning specially in the 21st century?. And also this kind of tourism promotion destroys our land, our traditional culture, employment of the ordinary people. And we do not have food sovereignty whereby we produce our own food. So we are dependent. For me it is not development. So, I think we have to tell the government this is how we understand development. We don’t mind tourists coming here. But, let it be at a certain level. Develop other avenues of industry, culture, agriculture. Help the people to develop culturally, because this is a knowledge era. We are against it because it destroys our environment. We have such a beautiful country with lot of variety of fauna and flora and that is being destroyed. Where do we end?
” Reverend Sister Marlene Perera.

Herman Kumara is the National Convener of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement

The post war development process created a lot of problems on fisher people, agriculture workers and all the people living along the coast, and also inside the country. Because, the government’s development programme is to develop tourism, as one of the main thing. Without caring any destruction on the lives and livelihoods of the people who are living on those lands. Government tries to grab that land and go in accelerated way on tourism development. So that, we thought that we need to bring all the affected communities on tourism, on development activities, infrastructure development and so many other types of displacements including war displaced people. So, today we have got here people from various parts of the country, not only from North and East, also from mid country, West coast also from down South and from East coast” Herman Kumara.

Indrani Fernando from Negombo hails from a fishing family. She calls to unite to stop the proposed plans to promote tourism.

Development; Development; What is this development? Development is essential, but it should not affect the poor people like us. We do not want development which destroys our livelihoods. In the name of development they brought some tragedy to Negombo as far as I see. Sea Planes were brought to Negombo in the name of development. But we did not keep quiet. We fisher folks got together and created awareness among the people, and told the authorities that “we will not allow the sea planes to land in our poor people’s areas”. We joined hands with women’s organisations along with fishermen’s organisations and shown our solidarity. All were united like a family” Indrani Fernando.

People need to be part of the ongoing development process.