|Wednesday, 31 March 2004|
What the 'small woman' has to say
Gender Dialogue by Nadira Gunatilleke
The Parliamentary General Election 2004 will be held day after tomorrow. When considering female component (52.03) in the total population in Sri Lanka it is obvious that the majority of the voters will be women. Therefore it is very important to know what Sri Lankan women really need from a Government.
According to a group of female Advanced Level students at a leading girls' school in Panadura they need a good education system that does not change with each and every Government. "We have been studying for about thirteen years and our school syllabus was changed several times within the past few years.
This is very annoying. Time to time we were being asked to do that...to do this...we hate this system", they added.
A group of female undergraduates at the University of Sri Jayawardenepura said that there is a huge difference between present university syllabuses and job market requirements. Therefore graduates do not get employment. But filling the syllabuses with trivial vocational training courses will not do any good either.
The country's education system and the economy need drastic changes that improve both university syllabuses and job market requirements. "We meant a economy that needs more and more scholars, professionals and experts, not English speaking managers without O/L qualifications!, juki machine operators, private secretaries, office assistants, tea pluckers and self-employed persons.
A young working girl attached to a private bank said that she needs an assurance of job security in the private sector. At present most of the private sector companies are cutting down their workforces. " I have been working in this bank for about five years. In one year the authorities give me different types of `tests' time to time and say that they cannot absorb me into the permanent cardre because I failed the `tests'. I am sure that I did them very well and there is no reason to fail. It is impossible to do the same thing again and again."
"When I asked how I worked in the bank for five years without any errors, the authorities have no answer to it. Some of my female colleagues got their appointments confirmed through some `unacceptable' channels. But I will not follow the same because I need justice and we need protection against this type of discrimination. It is the responsibility of the State to protect us."
A lady attached to a Government Department said that "all the politicians say that they did this...they did that..to ensure women's rights and our safety but still we cannot travel by bus without getting harassed. I have a young daughter who is doing the A/Ls and attending school and private tuition classes.
I am really worried about her safety because I have experienced all types of harassment while travelling by buses and walking alone along lonely roads. Since majority of us have no BMWs and Pajeros to transport our children I want the Government to implement a practical strategy to curb these crimes".
A pregnant working woman said that any government that comes to power should grant more relief for pregnant women and mothers who go through childbirth. At present only 84 working days are available for mothers and only two hours are given for a period of one year to breast feed infants. But this not enough to bring up a healthy child and not comfortable for the mother either.
In Sri Lanka many fathers play no role in this issue. They are left alone without over any responsibilities. Granting a considerable amount of paternity leave will make them `responsible' and will be a big relief for breast feeding mothers. "We do not have a safe place to keep our children. Existing daycare centres are very expensive and we cannot afford them or hire servants.
Those daycare centres do not look after children in a proper way and only make money. There is no acceptable standard. There is no monitoring from the Government. My head spins every time I think of what I would do after my maternity leave period. When compared with other countries the Sri Lanka's situation is very pathetic," she added.
Someone can say that those are small requirements of a few ordinary female citizens of Sri Lanka and they do not represent the majority, but it is small issues that become major crises in later times if overlooked. Therefore it is the responsibility of rulers to take care of powerless female citizens.
Produced by Lake House