28 June, 2022


Protecting Women- The Greatest Contributor To Our Nation’s Economy

By Asanga Abeyagoonasekera

Asanga Abeygoonasekera

Asanga Abeygoonasekera

We must tell girls their voices are important.” Malala Yousafzai

Women are among the highest contributors to our economy. To the Sri Lankan economy, women contribute from US$ 6billion worth of foreign remittance. A large proportion of female domestic workers based out of the country work tirelessly to earn a living and provide education and support to their households back at home. Women’s contribution to the domestic textile industry which largely contributes to export earnings is an aspect Sri Lanka can boast of. Further, in a traditional aspect of Sri Lankan economy, women’s contribution to the Ceylon Tea industry is remarkable. Despite three decades of civil war producing 40,000 war widows, these women bolster on as the bread winners of all these families in Sri Lanka.

With such sacrifices and achievements continuously being made by the women of Sri Lanka, the savage acts of the recent past shed light on the true situation in some women’s treatment in the country. An 18-year-old school girl in Pungudutivu of the Northern Province was gang raped and murdered in the most brutal of ways. This act is a lasting disgrace upon our society. It is not the first of cases as our nation has a high percentage of rape and other forms of sexual abuse.

RosyThe reaction of the community was transmitted through the world. One hundred and thirty protesters were arrested during the demonstrations, police officers transferred and now detectives of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) are between investigations to finalise whether or not anti national groups played a role in incidents.
The power of citizen action is notable in such incidents repercussions through the world- particularly powered by the speed and access to social media. In the case of Delhi and many places incidents through the world an empowered vocal citizen voice pushes authorities to take swift action. The locally released video released on social media of a police officer using racially motivated and disrespectful language at an Jaffna woman embodies the effect citizen journalism may have in terms of awareness of the broader communities through both Sri Lanka and the world .Traditional hierarchical structures are being challenged by the power of the citizen. The people could change powerful dictators and regimes which ruled longer time by amending constitutions.

The post war human resource development in war affected areas of North East should have been a top priority as youth in these areas mostly living off remittances sent from overseas is idling and see no future. Crime will increase in such an atmosphere. Youth development programs to improve their livelihood and social life remains crucial in post war rebuilding. Government, private sector and public could and should play a role to introduce new programs for the youth human resource development. It is essential to strengthen the women and child protection in our country especially as a nation which maintains highest regard to Buddhist values. As the Buddha clearly states in a sermon that a good way to measure the development of a nation is how that country respects and protects their women and children. This is the barometer that has gone wrong and we need to invest to protect and create a better environment.

Sri Lanka once was the proud nation that produced the first female Prime Minister which now presents insignificant women parliamentary representation at most levels of Governance. According to former President CBK she tried so hard to increase the number of women representation but she failed due to lack of support from the political organizers and the grass root levels of society across the country.

It is further important for the religious leaders also to play a role to remind the values society which seem to be fast diminishing. Programs such as Global Dignity educate on values of respect and dignity of life to school children. The value of peace and gender equality and sex education subjects of school curriculum could be introduced to teach respect and dignity for both sexes and all ethnic groups to live in harmony. Education Ministry, Ministry of Child Affairs and Women’s affairs, Child Protection Authority should be equipped to strengthen society and institutions with proper resources and budget. However the core responsibility lies in the hands of every single one of us, to ensure we educate our sons, to make sure we leave this place safe for the next generation.

Overseas Sri Lankan Worker protection scheme such as in Philippines have in place a comprehensive and sustainable mechanism which clearly teaches the overseas workers of their rights to fight back when they are in a difficult situation. A program introduced in this regard by the author while at Chairman foreign employment was terminated by the former foreign employment minister. This initiative “Saurin Ethereta” was developed with the assistance of Ernst & Young could be recalled as it focuses on the most important areas to improve the quality of foreign employment. An online job bank to apply for overseas jobs without informally appealing to politicians for letters of recommendations was also introduced during this time. Unfortunately it was stopped after some time. It is upsetting to watch the uprooting of seeds of ideas and institutions over the more sustainable approach of furthering the efforts of predecessors. Political actors and institutions in our island develop our national development strategies for the short term. Election policy is a key determinant thus making plans on the short term limiting effort put into on consistent policy and a long term vision necessary for the sustainable development of local institutions.

A sustained transition to completely stop the unskilled workers should be looked into. Our nation instead of being dependent on, should work toward ending the labour flow of women as housemaids to other nations. Sri Lanka has in place over 1500 foreign employment agents under the present regulator. The distinction between genuine agents who keep in mind workers right and those who do not in another point for authorities to take up. It is the politicians duty to work towards creating dignity in labour jobs in one’s own country instead of packing unskilled labour in the thousands to other nations.

As we commemorate the 27,000 soldiers and many youth who sacrificed their lives to eradicate terrorism to create a peaceful nation it is important to ponder on the youth sacrifices made during the war was to create a brighter and more hopeful future specially for the youth of our nation.

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Latest comments

  • 6

    Thank you Asanga.

    Is it possible to punish severely the agents who exploit and sell the house maids?

    One more thing. You say that 27,000 soldiers were killed to eradicate terrorism in the country. I think there should be more. Don’t forget the lives that were destroyed during this destruction. Plus the lives that were lost with the JVP insurgency. Could we have saved some of these lives if we followed the international conventions? Could we have changed the thinking of these terrorists whether it is LTTE or JVP? My wishful thinking!

    • 5

      Asanga Abeyagoonasekera

      RE:Protecting Women- The Greatest Contributor To Our Nation’s Economy

      Thank you for the write-up and bringing to the surface this issue of violence against women.

      Pakistan had that Malala and Taliban. Taliban just simply wanted to kill. They had some ethics.

      The rapists and killers in Jaffna, raped on top of that. Very sad indeed. The Tamil men who raped and killed Vidya, had to ethics.

      They should be punished, accordingly. But what happens, he was released by Police, yes the Sinhala Yahapalanaya Police!

      Then they attack the enraged public for attacking the Kangaroo Court Complex.

      Then the Kangaroo Lawyers association condemns the attack on the Kangaroo Courts.

      [Edited out]

  • 8

    “As we commemorate the 27,000 soldiers and many youth who sacrificed their lives to eradicate terrorism to create a peaceful nation it is important to ponder on the youth sacrifices made during the war was to create a brighter and more hopeful future specially for the youth of our nation.””

    Asanga, once again you have shown that you have not matured enough to go beyond the level of an average Sinhalese dominated mentality. Until I read your last paragraph I thought you are a national hero but the last paragraph was a sucidal. Do you think that last five years was a peaceful period? You can simply say that your soldiers eradicated terrorism. Do you understand why there was a terrorism? Why youths in North took arms in their hands? Do you think Tamils in this nation consider this war was against terrorism. Do you know how many Tamil soldiers (you may called terrorists) who saccricefied their lives in order to liberate the people from oppression. You talked about war widows. There are 89000 war widows in the North East created by these soldiers. You should understand there are two sides and bothsides arguments. You should understand why Tamils do not want the military presence in the North East if they consider the military brought peace to their lives. Think as a human rather than a Sinhalese!

    • 1

      Ajith Absolutely agree.
      In addition to the Tamil youths whoo took up arms and perished amd 89,000 war widows that the war created more than 100.000 Tamil civilians were killed during over the last sixty years.

      Grow up Asamga

  • 4

    Thanks Asanga. SL annual exports are about $11b ($900 a month). Now you are telling us that women contribution is $6b (including housemaid earnings).. This is huge.. What are we male lions doing? (It is said even the animal lions are very lazy animals, female lions have to hunt for them). Wake up men..

    • 1

      What has all this economist statistics got to do with the rape of a Girl, happened to be a Tamil.
      Asanka’s wants to work towards ending the labour flow oh house maids. But he is not providing any alternative solution for their employment. Is he proposing they take up the worlds oldest profession?

  • 3

    Only in Sri Lanka, are police officers ‘transferred’ after having committed criminal acts against laymen/women, or citizens in their custody.
    This does not amount to a ‘punishment’ – but allows them to repeat what they did, elsewhere.
    In other countries, such officers are temporarily relieved of their duties, while specially appointed bodies of citizens inquire.

    Many videos – in this incident – show policemen assaulting citizens with wooden poles only because they were members of a protesting groups.
    Many deaths of citizens in custody – of police and prisons – have occurred and no one has been found responsible, and punished.
    Sri Lanka is almost a ‘leader’ in Custodial Killings and Torture.

  • 0

    We have to come back to the point where our existance and the society based on the ethical and moral values and not only from the survival instinct, which dominated throughout the tormenting 30 years war. I believe most of our population independent of their race, relegion or ethnicity has a sound moral awaremness to live in peace with other communities and under the given nominal living standards typical for this country. But the political elite and all the politically motivated stakeholders of our society is running rampant. They abuse the political situation after a painstaking 30 years war in Sri Lanka to amass power and wealth at the cost of the possible civic harmony among the societies and shifts. The masses should be educated to identify these harmful actors and factors in the society to weed them out from our society. Only through an increased social awareness we could manage to lead a civilized life in harmony in our island nation.

  • 2

    You forgot to add the Sri Lankan women cricketers who apparently perform sexual favours to the Sri Lanka Cricket Board to play for mother Lanka

  • 3

    Let us try to make a real change from within.

    Let us choose use our brains over our hearts.

    Let us stop looking at everything from a racial point of view.

    Let us be honest to our selves and learn to see the truth for what it is.

    Let us start looking at matters from a human perspective.

    Let us put the past behind and look forward to a Just, peaceful, united and prosperous future as a nation.

    Everything will change for the better for all.

    Ps: most of all let us stop writing articles that start intelligently but somehow bungle everything by revealing the racist hidden within. You just can’t help it, can you?

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