Gender inequality in Sri Lanka

The term ‘gender’ can be defined as “non-biological, culturally and socially produced distinction between men and women.” It is basically a socio-cultural term which contains in itself the socially qualified roles, attributes and behaviours given to a man and a woman from a society. The identification of sex is based on chromosomal patterns and the genital structure which signifies the differences between men and women. However, this does not mean it gives men a dominant figure and women a subordinate structure.

In most of the societies; specifically in developing countries women are subjected to various forms of discrimination. Everywhere in the world, there is still considerable differences in terms of living conditions and social mobility opportunities between men and women due to unequal factors. The widely-known set of conceptions that are stereotypically attributed to women are passed on from generation to generation. As a result, they have been engraved in the lives of the people termed as, “social norms” which have not been questioned.

When considering the Sri Lankan context, traditional women have less social, economic, political and domestic in comparison to men. Also, women and girls have become more vulnerable to rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution and disparities in property rights… etc. Female infanticide and sex selective abortions are still been practiced in countries like India, so they are treated discriminatively even before their birth. Apart from that discrimination has become obvious in political leadership and decision-making positions and in economic top management in the South Asian region.

Various religions, cultures and patriarchal attitudes in South Asian region act as a as criteria in determining gender roles. Notions of, marriage and motherhood all tend to pressure girls in to these roles which can exclude other possibilities in their lives which are available to men. For an example things, such as education and employment opportunities.

Even though women and their labour force representation has been increased dramatically over the recent decades, a Pattern of gender inequality on the trade sector still seems to continue.

When considering the Sri Lankan National Human Development Report, it mentions that the  young women participation in the labour market is less than half that of young men. In 2011, the overall unemployment rate for females at 6.8% is twice that of the male unemployment rate (2.7%) (Annual Report Central Bank of Sri Lanka-2011)

On the other hand, if we move on to the theme “gender and Politics in Sri Lanka,” we see in 1931 Sri Lanka became one of the first countries in South Asia to give women the right to vote. Yet still at present we see that the female participation in Parliament is small in number. Alas, Sri Lanka remains as the only country without any special measures to facilitate female representation in local authorities. In comparison, Bangladesh, holds representation of 25% of seats that are reserved for women in Union Councils (1996 legislation); in India not less than 33% of seats are reserved for women and other marginalized groups in all panchayats or local bodies (1992 Constitutional Amendment).

In terms of female property rights Sri Lanka, we see a equality violation of law when considering the, matrimonial property rights under general law and discriminative laws under the Thesavalamai law. There is no uniform law regarding the separation of matrimonial property in the aftermath of divorce under the general law which give a wide discretion to the court. However, there are international and national instruments which focus on safeguarding women and accommodating their rights. International legal entrenchment to female rights has been provided by the CEDAW (Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women).

Constitution as a foundation document can play an instrumental role in bringing gender equality. The Article 12(1) and 12(2) of the constitution of Sri Lanka emphasises that All persons are equal before the law and are entitled to the equal protection of the law and no citizen shall be discriminated against interms of race, religion, language, caste, sex, political opinion, place of birth or any one of such grounds. This Article has been introduced in order to encourage the introduction of laws and policies that seek to improve the existing status of women and to provide a legal recognition for their rights.

Focusing on the national legislature in Sri Lanka ‘The domestic violence Act 2005’ was enacted in order to safeguard the rights of women in domestic circumstances and protect her from domestic violence. The ‘Employment of women, young persons and children ordinance 1923 and the ‘Factories ordinance’ which prohibits the employment of women in night work could be cited as regulatory controls in workplaces which provide special protection to women in their work places.

Modern principles such as ‘Concept of Liberal feminism or moderate feminism’ essentially seeks opportunities for female advancement in the existent society through institutional changes in education and the workplace which amounts to diminish the conventional attitude towards women in the society. This seeks equal opportunities within the system and work towards equal opportunities in ‘employment’, ‘education’, and ‘health’. The ‘substantive equality in terms of women’s experience would be more productive rather than a comparison women’s status with male standard. This idea of substantive equality is the foundation of CEDAW convention.

Even though the law has been enacted as to fill these disparities and to safeguard the rights of women, traditional women have much less social, economic, political and domestic power than men. Women are facing several problems due to unequal factors of political participation, labour force participation and decision-making process.  In order to overcome this gender inequality the conventional attitude towards women should be changed in a positive manner. States must make their own contribution to fashioning the concepts of liberal feminism and substantive equality, so that it provides a meaningful foundation for achieving gender justice and equality for women.

 

Hashintha Vidanapathirana

Who do you want to be an intelligent madcap or a sane happy man?

At present, how would you define yourself? As a: Bookworm that run behind certificates? Or as a bookworm who has a practical sense of life? Which category do you belong to? Or don’t you belong in any?

Let me help you sort it out.

Half a percent of the existing generation doesn’t even know the term, “bookworm.” Yet during the past times everyone use to read a book during their leisure hours. Yet now, the scenario has changed. Technology has emerged in to our lives and we rarely go in to a library or a book store. Information, books are just finger tips away. No one has the interest to read and study a book, yet they get help from the internet viewers and online editors who give them the summaries and analyses of the texts, they need to study. Therefore, the practicality of life and the novels, stories that help to build one’s life with information is far gone from the present-day lifestyles. People have become knowledgeable robotics who run from one interview to another with a bundle of certificates.

If I am wrong, ask from yourself. Do you really remember what contains in those certificates? Do you remember the core of your studies? Did they teach you the practical life skills that will carry you to the next stage of your interviews? Do you know how to deal with people and work in a team? Or is it basically the texts, certificates you have?  

Today certificates and degrees have become the aims of life. It is not wrong. But your qualification should contain a meaning. You should have a sense of what you are studying. Yet, most of us do a degree, graduate and we forget whatever we did and studied. This happens when one becomes an internet worm, as I would call it today. As a result, one’s life becomes a risk. You only know what you are asked. You never how to elaborate something beyond the given question. If you are asked to relate a text to your own life, you will look up and down thinking how the internet would answer it.

Yet the past generations saw life beyond a book. They read a book, a magazine or a newspaper till the end. They discussed facts and the story with their colleagues, yet they never took the first opinion from them. The first opinion always held within them. So, no matter what state and context it was, they knew how to remember it, and attribute it to their own selves. But today, we are lost in between our busy lifestyles and technology.

We tend to go on social media, run through it up and down and spend are free time with it. We rarely go to a library, associate people, join a society talk with people and watch a movie in groups. Therefore basically, as a result, life, has become all about, “you and the internet.” Our present generations have become dependents of the present-day technology. You eat with it, drink with it, live with it and it feeds you information and you go earn your certificates.

Yet the question is, does this individual life helps you climb the ladder of success? Or does it help you, apply and apply for jobs forever?

Therefore, if you want a meaningful life, that adds color to your certificates, you should earn it, by yourself. Try to take some time off the internet, television and your caged room. Step in to life, read a book, go to a library, meet friends, join a society, talk with an audience, check yourself with others, let your own self compete. Isolation never brings a winning.

Once you get in to a life with people, books that you read with passion and societies you put your strength in to, you learn life and you add value to your educational qualifications.

Cause at present when competing with the future brains, being an internet worm or a book worm, will be like applying for a job that never existed. So, if you want to succeed the present-day life style with technology and upcoming brains, you’ve got to mingle with the society. You’ve got to identify the weaknesses within you and the others. You need to learn from them and you need to give the knowledge you have. Sharing pictures through the internet won’t do. You need to share your life and knowledge and be a person with acquaintance, experience and intelligence. To be one, you need to step out from your own circle, and in to the society, which is vast and growing. And it is a matter of time until this society waits for you. If you do not grab your chances within the given time, you’ll lose this race as an intelligent-madcap. Therefore, being sane and succeeding at the same time takes time and effort.   Therefore, let yourself out and add color to your life.

– Gayathri Kodikara

Youth, Peace and Security

Around the world many young people are victims of cultural, direct, and structural violence and have become carriers of that same so called violence or perpetration. There is a strong tendency among politicians and researchers to see youth as a problem that is yet to be solved. However, many youth are peaceful and peace-builders. Equally affected by various forms of violence, they decide to act constructively towards building a culture of peace. Youth are underestimated as positive agents of change and key actors in peace-building, both by policy-makers and academics.

The United Nations Security Council adopted unanimously, on 9 December 2015, a ground-breaking resolution on Youth, Peace and Security which recognizes; “young people who play an important and positive role in the maintenance and promotion of international peace and security”.

As part of a series of national consultations, The International Youth Alliance for Peace organized a consultation on Youth, Peace and Security in Batticaloa , Sri Lanka on the 27th & 28th of May 2017 in partnership with World Vision Lanka &the Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) network , supported by British Council Sri Lanka Active Citizens Programme, which is part of the global effort to bolster action on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 that calls for a greater role for young people in strengthening peace and security to help reshape the role of youth in peace building in communities, countries, across the regions and worldwide for safer tomorrow.

The consultations will feed into a global progress study on the positive contribution of young people in peace building. This will be presented to the UN Secretary General and the Member States of the United Nations at the end of 2017. Youth selected from 18-29 years  from various organizations were invited   to attend the two days consultations. These consultations comprised of peer to peer discussions and experience sharing and many more.

International Youth Alliance for Peace is a youth-led organization that was founded to bring together a network of youth  to work together towards Sustainable Social Development.

We at IYAP hope to inspire youth-led social movements in the peace building arena under the banner of Resolution 2250. “We need to do more to raise the voices and shine the spotlights on young people who are really advocating in this space.” – Thirukumar Premakumar – President – IYAP

IYAP along with its partners and district committees  organizes such initiatives in other districts as well. If you want to join us  email us on iyapofficial@gmail.com or follow us on www.facebook.com/IYAP.org or call us on 0775446737(saranya)for more details.

Empowering communities through citizenship training for future leaders

Active Citizens is a global programme conducted by the British Council. The ethos behind this programme is ‘Globally connected, locally engaged’ and so far it has created 130,000 Active Citizens in 40 countries in Africa ,Asia, Europe etc. In South Asia , Active Citizens works through civil society organisations, government’s youth development organisations and universities to engage local volunteers and deepen trust and understanding within and between communities.  The vision of Active Citizens is ‘A world where people are empowered to engage peacefully and effectively with other cultures in the sustainable development in their community.’

The Active Citizens five day residential workshop held from 20 to 25 of March 2017 in Kundasale was a collaboration between British Council and their delivery partner, International Youth Alliance For Peace (IYAP) a local youth led volunteer not-for profit organisation. There were more than 30 participants representing Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities from all over the country. The programme develops Active Citizens who are potential change agents in their community. Through this workshop young people acquire a wide range of skills in leadership, communication, advocacy, citizenship, social responsibility, volunteering, fundraising, partnerships, and network building skills which contribute to community-led social development through Social Action Project delivery.

During the workshop, the participants were taken on a learning journey, referred to as the ‘the river’, which starts by building self-awareness and confidence and culminates in the planning and delivery of social action.

From building relationships with others; learning how to use dialogue as a tool for building empathy, trust and understanding through to practical and interactive sessions between Tamil, Sinhala and Muslim participants like Forum theatre. ‘Hold your assumptions lightly, not tightly’ was one of the most popular sessions which engaged the participants in activities regarding assumptions and debates whether assumptions are good or bad.

One of the main topics of the workshop was improving and understanding ‘communities’. What is a community? What are different communities around you? How communities can be empowered? Practical activities such as ‘the power walk’ addressed: What is power? How the centre of power can be influenced?

The workshop also focused on the biggest challenge in the journey of an Active Citizen; to change and empower their communities; developing an understanding of how the community ‘works’; learning how to identify stakeholders and interventions for addressing community issues and improving the motivation to act.

A cultural show was also organised by the participants with the help of the facilitators. They did combined events proving that language barrier is not a problem if you are willing to challenge something and proving that his workshop actually did make an impact on them. Participants used this event to showcase their diverse culture through song, dance and drama. It was undoubtedly one of the most successful sessions of the workshop.

Darshatha Gamage, a participant, representing the University of Kelaniya Rotaract club shared his views on this workshop “The Active Citizens workshop provided the opportunity for me to look at the things we know of in a different way. It also opened up the opportunity to network with young people who are engaged in impactful social action projects and to share experiences with each other.”

‘I feel empowered as a female and a social worker to deliver social action using my improved social responsibility and leadership skills’ stated Letchumanan Kokilavani volunteer representative from Sarvodaya Fusion, Hatton, Nuwara Eliya.

A total of 10 social action projects were planned and will be conducted by the participants all over the country. While all the projects have a cross-cutting theme of women and girls empowerment, reconciliation and peaceful co-existence is the main theme for their projects.

These Active Citizens are now ready to address issues in their communities, neighborhoods, empower the grass root level communities, bringing together people from different backgrounds including district councils, young people, community and religious leaders working towards creating a sustainable future for themselves and each other.

Waste Management: Sri Lanka’s struggle for a sustainable future

Sri Lanka’s search for sustainable methods for waste management and disposal

A nation consistently missing the mark on prevention vs. cure

Garbage: Taking Center Stage

Throughout the years Sri Lanka’s waste management process has been a topic that was overshadowed by war, crime, human rights movements, education and politics.

However, as tragedy strikes in Meethotamulla, leaving many lives at a lost and many more displaced, the topic of proper waste management again resurfaces, taking center stage. This brings to light a larger predicament that Sri Lanka is facing a major problem regarding the sustainable and long-term solution(s) for proper waste disposal. With this, citizens of Sri Lanka has come together using active engagement to urge local councils and governments to find a preventative solution, as opposed to a cure, to ensure the events at Meethotamulla would never reoccur.

 

Blame Game

Yet the question is whether Sri Lanka still headed toward a destructive waste management system, even with the Central Environmental Authority’s (CEA) provision of financial and technical support to implement recycling programmes to over 125 local authorities island-wide.

Scrutinisation of the waste management process has brought to light queries regarding, firstly local council and the government’s ability to implement and provide the public with adequate information toward sustainable waste management and secondly, local households’ lax attitude toward cooperation in segregated waste collection, integral for recycling.

This disparity in garbage collection and separation has led in to many landfills which are becoming far too full and far too fast. Many questions and complaints have been raised in areas such as Karadiyana, Piliyandala as well as in the Ella Pradeshasaba.

With local councils frantically trying to promote and implement the seven [07] steps of waste management; managing waste at the place of origin; movement of waste from the place of origin; cleaning of public spaces; halting the use of open garbage bins; streamlining transportation of waste; use of waste as a resource; and streamlining dumping sites., Sri Lanka is in desperate need of a revamp to waste management strategy.

 

Recycling Revolution

The need for sophisticated and innovative waste management systems has never been higher in Sri Lanka, given the devastating accident, that was not unforeseen by many.

As Sri Lanka continues to work within a culture of ‘cure, instead of prevention’, many European countries such as Sweden, Austria, Germany, Netherlands and Belgium have paved their way in waste management solutions. Many entrepreneurs have acknowledged that waste management can be converted into a viable business opportunity. Although, the initial investment does come at a higher cost – but does this mean Sri Lanka should be penny-wise and pound foolish when regarding sustainable waste management methods?

Imagine a country, where  landfill waste is less than 5%, with well-developed recycling systems, sufficient treatment capacity, and a well performance with biodegradable waste. Resulting in 100% of household waste being recycled into new products, raw materials, gas or even heat. Now imagine that recycling was turned into a profit making industry where waste was imported.

A true recycling revolution. Sweden, in 2015 had already reached this revolution.

Across Sweden, 950,000 homes are heated by trash; this lowly resource also provides electricity for 260,000 homes across the country, according to statistics from Avfall Sverige, Sweden’s national waste-management association.

In recent years over 100,000 tons of foreign garbage, mostly from Britain was brought in for recycling to power, in addition to the 435,000 tons supplied by Swedish municipalities.

While recycling is not the sole indicator of a sophisticated and well-functioning waste management system, it is certainly a key component.

Germany had approximately 50,000 landfills; and by 2014, this had reduced to only 300, of which neither accepted nor unsorted garbage. In order to get to this point, in 2005, Germany banned traditional garbage dumps transforming many into incinerators, biological and mechanical waste processing factories and 800 sites were converted began producing compost from organic waste. By 2022, they also aim to have decommissioned their remaining landfills and implement plans to utilize all the waste that is created and the energy produced by it.

The German business institute estimates that they can save up to €3.7 billion a year from recycling and the energy produced from their waste. Waste processing systems already save them 20% of the cost of metals and 3% of the cost of energy imports.

Austria, although a small country, now utilize a new high-tech method of waste management which uses bioengineered fungal enzymes for the natural recycling of PET, without the production of any new by-products, with less new production materials having to be made using petroleum and 100% of the material recycled can be used.

Belgium is also a top performer in waste management, it possesses the best waste diversion rate in Europe: 75% of their waste is reused, recycled or composted; all helping to reduce overall waste generation.

 

Sri Lanka’s quick-fix

Recent rumors have surfaced, with several government sources having confirmed that Puttalam is being considered to be used as a landfill in order to reduce the tension on many of Sri Lanka’s current landfills. With waste planned to be carried along the railway lines and moved to Puttalam, one begs the question, is this a quick-fix or just poor planning?

Surely, a little bit of thought and planning for a better future shouldn’t be made so lightly.

Should Sri Lankan councils and governments look to our European peers and begin on a path to the Recycling Revolution, without the excessive reliance on landfills?

Img sources:

http://www.chemwaste.co.nz/index.php?page=sustainability

http://www.planetaid.org/blog/global-recycling-rates

sustainability-diagramGlobal_Recycling_Rates_2