PHM Sri Lanka: Women's Day: Voice of voiceless on stage

11 Apr 2014

People’s Health Movement of Sri Lanka (PHM – SL) commemorated the Women’s Day on 17th March 2014 at the Nagarodaya Centre, Colombo 8.  Ms Padma Pushpakanthi took the Chair and Ms Menu Nilukshika conducted the event.  It marked as a historical event.

A woman from the Thelungu (Gypsies) community addressed the gathering and brought up their difficult situations.  She said that this is the first occasion that a women from her community was given the opportunity to speak in public and it showed their empowerment.  She explained the health difficulties they undergo as they cannot gain access to any of the health facilities because they go from place to place for their livelihood.  She further mentioned that they have now decided not to change the living places and presently they try to settle down in whatever places they come across. By way of this they are able to get facilities for health and education.  But with regret she mentioned that no government servants have offered any assistance to them.

Ms K P Somalatha explained that currently the rural women have abandoned the agricultural sector and have opted to work as labourers in the factories.  One woman explained the hardships she faced during her employment and stated that it was almost a slavery job without any leave facilities and proper working times.  She further stated that they faced harassments and sexual abuse.

A woman from the PLHIV spoke about her difficulties of social discrimination and that people blame the woman more than the man.

Ms Marie Princy explained about the combination of women and development.  Urban and rural women did not have the opportunity for employment.  Then the Government commenced the Free Trade Zone and the women have become slaves of their masters.  After that foreign jobs as housemaids were created and with this the situation is worse.  At present, jobs under tourism is going to be created and it is evident that there will be  more problems for the women.

After the above speeches, there was a very fruitful discussion among the participants.  Most of the participants explained that we will have to challenge the prevailing system to overcome the hardships faced by them.  However, as a short term target, all agreed to work for better working conditions and facilities for foreign housemaids.

Ms Greata of the Fisheries Solidarity Movement voiced the difficulties faced by the fisherwomen.  She explained how they try to protect the Negombo Lagoon and at the same time, they are trying to get rid of the Sea Plain Project.

Sirimal Peiris

PHM Sri Lanka

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