Date: Fri, 17 Feb 1995 00:57:09 -0800
Sender: Activists Mailing List <>
From: Sabina <>
Subject: Sri Lanka: Newsletter from women

Introduction to Nirmanee

A Sri Lanka newspaper from women

Date: 2:09 PM Feb 15, 1995
Conference in APC networks:

The [material] below is reproduced from Nirmanee. This gives a good description the activities. The Magazine is produced once a month in Sinhala, and since March 1994 the women of "Nirmanee" have been talking about translating their publication and this is the first Electronic version. The women are planning to continue to translate and Mail to the wider audience that Mail offers. As mention before this is the first Electronic Summary of "Nirmanee" and the circle would look forward to your words of encouragement and comments.

The " Nirmanee Circle" has been in existence for nearly 4 years but for the benefit of our readers who have come to know is recently, we write this short note about us.

We are an organ of the Resource Centre for Community Groups . The (RCCG) came into being, based on the theme justice, peace and development through harmony, fraternity and equality, with the main objective of assisting small communities which are not financially capable of purchasing the equipment required, RCCG provided printing facilities to them at a reasonable price. Since then RCCG's scope widened to accommodate many other objectives, inter-alia, eliminating of discrimination against the poor, the oppressed and women, building self-confidence and women, building self-confidence and self-organising etc.

The women's unit is section the RCCG. Mainly involved in training the women in printing trade. "Navayuga Type's" is a Typesetting Unit entirely run by a group of females who had undergone training at RCCG with the view of fighting for the rights of women.

RCCG has become a member of Mothers and Daughters of Lanka. Sisters involved in all these activities voluntarily contribute to make "Nirmanee" a success. Our aim is to create an awareness in the minds of the people about the specific problems pertaining to women and to provide forum for the creative talents of our members.

Magazine Name: "NIRMANEE" (translation is "Female creativity")

Issue No: 8, 4th Edition, January 1995

Should this go on Forever?

The capitalist countries who advocate human rights all over the world, are not worried at all about the people in the Third World countries, who shed their sweat to fill the coffers of the affluent countries. We as poor countries always had to bow down to their dictates, as they decided our next meal. We have inherited indebtedness and ignorance owing to pruning our welfare measures.

On 17th January, a large number of human rights and peoples' organisations in Sri Lanka held a mass rally to protest against conditions imposed by the World Bank. The peoples' voice was echoed in the words of D.M. Jayaratne the Deputy Minister for Agriculture of the PA Government, when he said that the WB sucks the blood of our countrymen. Even at this later stage of our countries try to bargain or reason with the WB our children could have another of food.

Government Policies and Implementation

Another year has downed. The question is whether it will be a New Year or just another year. In keeping with the aspirations of the people the Government has invited peace talks with the LTTE, and held several rounds of discussions successfully. Though it is commendable there are many complains about corruption's, wastage and inefficiency. Early this month if came to light that large number of Ministers and Deputy Ministers have requested luxury vehicles, after selling by auctions, similar vehicles, imported by the last regime.

We cannot forget that a considerable number of our population consists of recipients of Janasaviya, food stamps and charity dole (of Rs. 100/= only p.m) Those who came to power on the mandate of such people seemed to forget conveniently that they have to face another elections after several years. It has become the norm for politicians very risky for the present Government to forget those promises to the people, as there was a vast gathering with political awareness behind it victory.

Charulatha - the lonely woman

They say "there's life while there's hope" and people live on personal as well as social hopes. After a 17 year rule tarnished with corruption, suppression and violence etc. Charulatha too longed for a change for the better. Being realistic, she knew the PA Govt. would not create on Utopia, but like most others she hoped for a just rule however, the policy statement of the Govt. presented at a far cry from what she promised just over 100 days ago. According to Pundits the frustration is more because the people have placed too much hopes on the new governments but people cannot be blamed for such hopes as they had to live under so much pressure.

People would be satisfied of he Government provides solution for the problems which is part of their lives,

There is so much to struggle for and Achieve

All our universities, the scope for women in political activities is very limited. It is the usual practice for them to be sweethearts of student leaders and to copy down the notes and make tea for the latter. They are denied the opportunity to leadership, decision making and management etc. Sirimalee Liyanagama a student leader of the Colombo University is in this context, a rare find. Hailing from the remote village of Kotapola in Deniyaya she reads for the special degree in Political Science and is a student representative of her university.

My father is a paddy cultivator and I have 6 elder brothers. We discuss current affairs often at home and my mother is the Speaker of our mini Parliament. She was an inspiration to me as she had political awareness beyond the normal village intellect, though she backed much formal education. She rereads a lot and is road minded, hence I had freedom to carry on with my student political activities which I started while out but was pressured to leave the village in 1990. Though my studies were disrupted, with the help of private tutor who helped to widen my political knowledge, I gained admission to the university. My parents feared for my safety, but my brothers encouraged me to serve the society. At first I was disgusted, but realised that I have to work within the frame to up lift student politics." she said

During the recent elections she was involved in the students' struggle to defeat the UNP and was active in the Polonnaruwa district with pressure groups. She had worked in Balangoda, Ratnapura, Pelmadulla and Dambulla too, sometimes with male colleagues only. Her biggest achievement so for the students' struggle for hostels.

Due to male dominance most women are not aware of their rights or what we have to strive for. I hope to confirm struggle for student rights, she concluded.

Sewing Girls In Tatters

Unemployment is the toughest problem our youth has to face, with underemployment prevalent is a very large scale. During the previous regime, young men were channelled mostly to the armed services while young women were directed towards garment factories that are mostly found in Free Trade Zones. Intent on being at their workplaces in time, they have no time for casual conversation with others. These factories provide some form of employment, but is not the ideal solution in the long run. Due to financial difficulties at home many educated women (some with advanced level) find employment in garment factories and become machines after day. For example, a girl working in the section that makes collars for shirts, does not learn anything else.

Inadequate transport facilities a problem for most of the girls especially after might shifts. Their payment is affected if they are late for work. The Workers in the Koggala FTZ whom we spoke to, have experienced less suppression since the new government came into power they believe that they are comparatively better off than their counterparts in Katunayake FTZ and spoke positively of certain measures taken y the government. However no-one from the management was available for comments.

For A Better Tomorrow

On the last day in 1994, workers at Korea Ceylon Footwear Factory were hospitalised following an assault by the 'humane' police of the new government. The workers in FTZ had total faith in the government they elected and hoped that must of their burning issues such as accommodation, permanency in employment and trade unions would be solved soon. However, denial of worker rights continues though in a smaller scale and the workers are suppressed.

Some workers are reluctant to contribute their mite for a till collection towards helping the strikers. How wonderful the world would be if all workers donate at least half days wages to a fund for fellow workers who lost their jobs!

On the other hand there are some opportunists who try to gather a following by leading strikers that could have been avoided. For a better tomorrow that fulfils the wishes of the oppressed workers, a revolution in thinking and attitudes and awareness in social and political situation are essential. If workers are not united in such a manner, they will eternally be prey of the hand of suppression, which does not change with each new government.

Shang's Memories

"I am shang shio Ping from Taiwan and I work as an executive member of the China Times trade union.

"Since the Martial Law was lifted in 1988 many free trade unions revived their activities. The workers were aware of their rights and labour laws. I started my campaign against the capitalists during this time.

"The management of the my work place wanted to employ women in the night shift (which is prohibited in law) and requested female employees to sign their consent. Those who refused to sign were threatened with termination of work. I was against this from the beginning and persuaded my fellow workers not to sign any document. At first communication with us, but finally there were compelled about the unfairness and injustice of the work place. Realising our strength, the management withdrew the document and promised to look into our grievances. They provided transport facilities to the female workers who did the night shift.

"I do no know from where I got the coverage, but I knew that of we do not help each other , we cannot survive. So I continued my campaigns to the very end which is certainly difficult.

"In 1991, I was elected to the executive committee of the trade unions as a number and it was the first time in history that a woman was elected. My next struggle was against the male domination in Tus, as I was refused leadership and was assigned organisation and training work. My struggle for equality earned me everyone's respect and they stated calling me 'Real Women' and 'Big sister'

"By September, 94 when my second turns of office ended, I have achieved much for my fellow workers and the management saw to it not to undermine worker strength. Our union had the strength to bargain with the management to safeguard our worker right etc.

"The road I travelled so far was a difficult one, but I shall continue to struggle for equality of sexes."

Manacles-Freed From Television Manacles

The usual fare dished out by local television channels comprise "family stories" which portray the day-to-day lives of the characters with an underlying them of good and bad people, the traditional role of the woman, mothers self-sacrifices for her children, disruption in family life due to ignorance of women etc. "Wilangu" (Manacles) written by a woman and directed by a woman, is a welcome change.

This single episode tele-feature won made 6 years ago but the state television did not approve it for screening, on the pretext that it is against our morals and later approved it as a late right show subject to deletion of offending scenes. As the director did not agree to the conditions, this half an hour film was languishing in cold storage till finally it was shown at prime time (7.25 p.m.) on 29.12.94

Women's' courage in facing the world is the theme o he controversial tele-feature. Many young people in love have pre-marital affairs resulting in unwanted babies or pregnancies. In this story the boy evade the issue of marriage as he is unemployed and the girl is left wing and dry. But she is not a passive sufferer and decides to face the consequences with courage. She breaks the bangle given by her boy friend and in the background her song of courage is heard (The lyrics of the theme song is caged in the page)

We invite our young film-makers and technicians to crate thought provoking tele-features and not popular stories.

Women Between the Devil and The Deep Blue Sea

Remnants of the feudal system are still visible in our society where the new capitalist system thrive. This mixture affects the woman adversely as she is expected to be chaste, modest, obedient, well protected and well versed in household work, as well as an asset in the labour market. A wife and mother is expected to look after the needs of her family, but how can she do it after nearly 12 hours of hard work at the factory or her workplace? When woman leaves the factory after the night shift at midnight, how can she preserve her chastity with many males eyeing her ?

The society expect two totally different things from one woman and she finds it an ordeal to satisfy both the attitudes. That is why we should fight against exploitation of labour as well as against old- fashioned with broader and narrow mindlessness.

The woman or "The Thing"

Things are inanimate object that we need around the house, but people are in the habit of referring to girls as "things" (the sinhalese equivalent) in loose terms which is improper. Women should object to being referred to in this cheap manner . At times, school girls are also guilty of using this word when referring to a girl friend of a boy. e.g. Did you meet your thing ?" It is tragic that they degrade their own kind. Any self-respecting woman should not use such terms and object whenever it is used in parlance.

The Unconventional Love (a true verse)

They say that lime seeds are bitter, but I feel like tasting it......

95 January

Started the first working day of the year (2nd Jan) in a happy mood but was saddened to learn about the death of the deputy leader of PLOTE, Karavai Kandasamy. He has become another victim of the gun culture. How could people forget the value of a human life?

A friend of mine who has supported the PA during elections, referred to the President as 'your President' in the course of a discussion. I realised that she is fast becoming no ones President. Before election she promised redress to suffering masses but not once she said that wage increases and price reduction of commodities would take longer, due to 58 billion deficit in the '94 budget subsequent to 17 year' rule of corrupt UNP.

On 30th December, newspaper carried the news of an old Minister of the PA Government who spent several hours in a hotel with a young girl. Well, he can do so if the girl is willing, but the reason why it affect the general public is that it involves a large sum of public funds. The person who introduced the girl to the Minister wants him to write off a loan of Rs. 300 million from State Bank which he had defaulted repayment. The deals between politicians and businessmen should be more open.

At a workshop of 'we in the zone' held on 8th Jan. in Negombo, brother aired his grievance which is about payhikes that the PA government promised. As it could not grant the promised wage of Rs. 3000/= only a 10% increase was granted. The salaries of workmen than were increased by Rs. 150/= or 200/= p.m. which the management received Rs. 4000/= or Rs. 5000/= increases. In this context is it unfair for workers to demand Rs. 500/= more.

"Law for Women"

The bias against women at Indian Judiciary clear in sharad Birdhichand Sarads' case. Sarda, chemical engineer was found guilty of murdering his 20 year old wife Manjushree by suffocation and oral administration of potassium cyanide. He was convicted by both the sessions court and the Bombay High Court, but was acquitted by the Supreme Court, or ground that his wife was an over sensitive, unreasonable and demanding woman who ended her life out of sheer frustration and depression, as she did not receive whole hearted love and affection

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