Friday, March 23, 2012

Women demand fair representation in politics and decision making

Creative cloth banner by women

The population of women in Sri Lanka is 51% of the total population of 21.3 million. There are 56% women voters in Sri Lanka. But the discrimination continues at various levels in various fields including decision making. Some women are courageous enough to challenge the patriarchy and win the battles. But some women simply shy away.

Women need support to break the glass ceiling

Women who contested at local elections and won:~

I have decided to contest in the elections in Vavuniya. Women were with me and they supported. But the men asked me “are you willing to be widowed and wear a white saree and loose the pottu (bindi) and flowers? Men are not willing to accept our (women’s) decision. Men politicians are not talking about women's issues. Women need to encourage women. Threats continue, but I am not worried. There a lot of political interference, but we need to work hard to overcome” says Nagaranjani Iyankaran, Valigamam West.

"Men politicians open bars in villages during the election period in order to stop the women from contesting. My cut outs were destroyed, nevertheless I won the elections” says Chandrakanthi Dasanayake from Seruwila.

Women have to take part in Politics. More and more women should actively participate in politics and decision making” says Mareen Abdeen Basheer, Dehiwala Mount Lavinia Municipal Council member.

Mareen Abdeen Basheer, Dehiwala Mount Lavinia Municipal Council member shares her experience

Neighbours, villagers and relatives did not talk to me during my election campaign. My eldest daughter was fasting during my election campaign, because she wanted me to win. My four daughters worked hard with me during the election campaign. Even after winning the elections in 2009, the women's organisations in the North did not recognise our talents, but women's organisations in the South came to Jaffna and recognised us” says A. Maria Goratty, Jaffna Municipal Council member.

There are 247 families in Maanthai East, Paandiyankulam, and there are 48 widows. Intimidation and threats continued, but I was not afraid, decided to contest and won. There were 612 candidates, and I was the only woman contested and elected. My husband is very supportive” Saraswathy Theiventhram, Maanthai East, Paandiyankulam.

Saraswathy Theiventhram, Maanthai East, Paandiyankulam receives he award from Deshabandu Jezima Ismail

Women who contested at local elections and lost:~

Supporters of a main political party stayed near my house during the election campaign in order to prevent me from going to villages to meet the voters. People don't vote for us, because we don't give promises which cannot be delivered. Men politicians say "women need to dress properly. My question is what happens and why are the women at home being abused?.” Male politicians use “women’s dress” to stop us from contesting elections” M.M.Kanthi De Silva~ Kanthale.

Third Eye performs at the event

My party United National Party did not support me. Women did not support me. What can you do?, the voters kept asking me. If you are contesting under UPFA or TNA then you can do something to us, but you are contesting UNP, so it’s difficult to deliver”. I spent Rs.800,000 from my own money. We did not even give panadol to our people who suffered during the floods. People do not know how to vote. Most voters have voted for more” Kanakambal Vijeratnam~Vavuniya.

Male politicians and candidates tried many times to stop me from contesting. Some have even tried through my husband to withdraw my candidature. Rigging happens, women candidates have to talk about it. We are 51% of the population, why don't women support women?” queries Tharanga Kaikawela.

People always asked me “what can you deliver?”. People need to be part of the process” says Shanthi Satchithanandam.

I was encouraged to contest by women from Sinhala community. UPFA promised, but they failed, therefore contested independently. Our men have changed and changed the women overnight the day before the elections. I was threatened over the telephone and in person. I was not afraid. I told the army officers, I will take claymores before the women suicide cadres of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) exploding them. I wanted to offer this service to the women from Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who carried claymores in 2006 in the east, because I wanted to prevent the women from being abused” Kanthimathy Nageswaran from Seruwila.

I hated politics when I was young. Upcountry is backward in education. But I have decided to be active in politics. We face inequality in every field. There is politics everywhere, therefore I have decided to take part in politics in order to uplift the living standards of the upcountry people” says Balambikai Subramaniam from Nuwara Eliya .

There were 3 women contested in the elections. No support was extended to us, because we are women. Society does not accept change and change makers. No women's organisations supported me. I and my husband went from house to house by bicycle for campaigning. Men on motorbike tried to abduct me, but I was bold enough to beat them. I neither cried nor screamed, instead I have thoroughly beaten them. Women cook deliciously, the men enjoy the variety cooking. Why does not the society give space for women to progress?” queries Sinnathamby Seetha from Aalaiyadivembu.

I contested in 1994 under Tamil National Alliance, and got 8,000 votes, although I did not win, I am active in politics. We voted for the politicians not to cross over. Why cannot the political parties nominate the women as the main candidates? “queries Annamma Sountharrajah from Ampara.

Annamma Sountharrajah shares her extensive experience

View of audience at the event

Women Action Network (WAN) has brought the women who have challenged the status quo in their efforts to demand justice and fair representation in decision making. The event was organised to celebrate the International Women’s Day 2012. The Women’s Action Network is a collective of 12 women’s organisation from the North and East of Sri Lanka. Awards were presented to courageous women at the event.

16 women politicians and 7 women for their brave action to demand justice were felicitated


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