By Ratna Bala –
Women are the majority in Sri Lanka now. But they do not have any political power. Our country proudly proclaim as it has had the first female prime minister in the world. That didn’t give any enthusiasm to empower women with political power. Even the women affairs ministry had been manned by men as they know better about women’s affairs. How can women claim their political power to promote progress in gender equality in Sri Lanka.
Dear beloved Mothers and Sisters,
It is time for you all to stand united firmly and speak loudly, with skills and strength, to demand gender equality in governing your country.
All Sri Lankan people have suffered unimaginable pain and loss during last thirty years of war and devastating effect of tsunami. You have faced the most, enduring relentless psychological and physical trauma and helpless perpetual hardship. You have done it silently and with courageous determination to see it through and survive against all odds. Traditionally there were noises about your plight in election promises, NGO forums and meetings with foreign diplomats. Any progresses made were very limited. Our male dominated political power house got preoccupied in building roads and tourist resorts. They are only partly responsible for the blame! How could they (myself included) understand your needs? Even if they were informed of your needs how could they give priority to them and find effective solution without your active participation?
In our country thousands of women have gone to Middle East to be tortured and humiliated eventually returning back home empty handed to face a broken family and abused children bore an eloquent testimony to how we care about your values, respect and dignity. Thousands of women had become widows by brutal war and struggling to make ends meet. Thousands of women daily encounter domestic violence. Thousands of women live in severe economic hardship in poor families in which malnutrition and related diseases affect women more than men. Thousands of women’s lives ruined by problems related to alcohol and drugs usage by men. Sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, rape and murder of women are becoming daily breaking news. How any men can adequately understand and sincerely feel for your problems and can find solutions? They can only come out with suggestions like legalising prostitution, building casinos etc.
Dear beloved Mothers and Sisters,
It is time to say ‘we had enough. we have sacrificed enough, suffered enough and suffocated enough. Let us live with dignity and respect’. It is time to say ‘we want our political power. We want our rightful place in parliament and civil administration and ensure to treat women equal to men’. It is time for gender equality in our country.
I do not doubt your courage to achieve this goal. Your need greater willingness and greater collective effort. A thunderous united voice of all women beyond any divisions of ethnicity, religion, political affiliation would be needed to make progress. Is that an impossible task? Don’t we have courageous women to come forward to lead this struggle? From history we know even the voting rights for women were achieved after great struggles lead by women. You will find many friends all over the world supporting your cause.
You can begin this struggle demanding equal places for women in forth coming local government election in March 2016. You have enough time to call upon your fellow mothers and sisters to join hands to make this demand from all major political parties and campaign for support and solidarity from your fathers and brothers. If that demand is met with significant resistance, as last resort, all women voters can collectively boycott the election to question the system of justice and compassion in consciousness of your country. Ii is time for women to demand their political power to actively take part in making decisions affecting their life and country. I earnestly wish they will ensure that we all agree and support their cause. They deserve to have their rightful place in our country. It is time!