|Saturday, 8 March 2003|
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Women's empowerment: some essential tasks
We share in the elation and joy of the women of this country and those all over the world on stepping into the limelight today, International Women's Day, and on being honoured for the sizeable contribution they make for mankind's well-being. This recognition has been slow in coming and is still to be accorded by the entirety of male society, but there is no denying the fact that there is greater awareness today, than say fifty years ago, on the issues confronting women anywhere in the world, thanks to events such as International Women's Day.
In a largely male-dominated world, progress in the achievement of women's empowerment is found to be slow and this could be particularly so in cultures such as our's where women continue to be viewed through jaundiced eyes among some sections. For, the majority of women continue to wilt silently as objects of exploitation here and in cultures all over the world, including those in the West, as a result of not putting up a coherent, sustained and united resistance to the systems of oppression and marginalization. For instance, it is our belief that enough is not being done by most local women's organizations to explode the widely - cultivated myth that women are objects of sexual gratification. This is attributable to the fact that some women continue to cosy-up to this image.
We believe that more women, particularly those in the rural areas, need to be integrated into the women's movement on account of its, largely, urban base. Besides bringing numerical strength to the movement for women's empowerment, this measure would help in conscientizing all sections on the degree of exploitation and impoverishment women suffer. However, the simple, indisputable truth is that women contribute in a significant measure to the Gross National Product, although this is not officially recognized. Suffice it to know that the contribution of women to the common weal through their silent, kitchen-bound labours, is yet to be quantified and assessed.
This is the reason why the movement for women's empowerment needs to be broader-based. While building on their numerical base these groups also need to work towards wider political representation; locally, provincially and nationally. For, political-empowerment would lead to the fashioning of policy in numerous areas at various levels of governance, taking into consideration women's interests also.
From this point of view, the recent setting up of a North-South committee on the furtherance of women's interests, at the Govt.- LTTE peace negotiations, is an event of tremendous importance. Besides highlighting the inescapable, women's well-being dimension in the peace process, it would help to unify the country's women, regardless of where they may be and help in their empowerment.
Further gains by the women's movement would depend on tireless advocacy of their rights by women's activists and on their ability to spread their operations to the country's rural base. Occasional high-profile celebrations would no longer suffice.
Produced by Lake House