Celebrating acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who play extraordinary roles in their communities
Celebrating International women’s Day 2021, the Church of Ceylon said in a statement that “a nation can only flourish when all its citizens are respected and treated equally and with dignity”.The full statement signed by the Right Reverend Keerthisiri Fernando, Bishop of Kurunegala and the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Ceylon and the Right Reverend Dushantha Rodrigo, Bishop of Colombo is given below:
As we celebrate womanhood on this international Women’s Day, the United Nations emphasizes the theme of “Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a Covid-19 World”. The pandemic has resulted in many changes in our societies with women being disproportionality affected in their family, workplace and community lives. The pandemic has also reinforced the need for women to be involved in economic, political and social activities. We have to address this as a matter of urgency.’ While we celebrate the achievements of women in Sri Lanka and the world over, we also see the challenges women face in our society. Many uncelebrated heroines in our society have not been recognised, encouraged nor supported.
They should be saluted for their courage, strength and determination towards the development of the economy while playing multiple roles.
"An example of this is the recent opposition to the appointment of the country’s first female DIG. We need a change in our society towards accepting and treating women without discrimination and with equal respect. "
Women, especially the migrant workers, apparel industry workers and plantation workers, are the the backbone of the Sri Lankan economy and have not been recognised adequately. Many migrant women are still stranded in the host countries without jobs and in appalling living conditions and their appeals to be brought home met with an inadequate response. The plantation workers are yet to receive a decent living wage and this was not even prioritised during the pandemic. The ways in which the apparel industry workers were ostracised, marginalised and treated inhumanely was evident during the pandemic with their safety and welfare not being prioritised. While labour laws should be strengthened, the existing laws must be enforced to their full extent and implemented to protect the rights of women. Domestic violence remains prevalent in Sri Lanka and it was exacerbated during the lockdown period and considered a “pandemic within a pandemic” “Women are afraid to speak out and take recourse of the law due to retaliation and stigma from society.
Women affected by the conflict in the North and East of our country, especially among the families of the disappeared and the female, headed households, are doubly vulnerable due to increased militarisation, discrimination and the inability to overcome the cycle of poverty.
"Women, especially the migrant workers, apparel industry workers and plantation workers, are the the backbone of the Sri Lankan economy and have not been recognised adequately"
A nation can only flourish when all its citizens are respected and treated equally and with dignity.
While acknowledging some women for their roles in leadership, it is clear that significant obstacles to equality such as systemic discrimination, unconscious bias in workplace cultures and practices, remain.
An example of this is the recent opposition to the appointment of the country’s first female DIG. We need a change in our society towards accepting and treating women without discrimination and with equal respect. This begins by acknowledging the silent and sometimes sinister ways by which women are marginalised and discriminated against. We need to address these issues more within the family, schools, religious institutions and the community at large.
Our Lord Jesus showed us, through his life and teachings, of his highest regard for women and he recognised the intrinsic value of women in society, equal to that of men, as men and women are created in the image of God. He challenged the social norms of his time. Unfortunately, over the years, the institutional church has often failed to live up to its founder’s example. Following in his footsteps, we must ensure that women and girls in our nation are treated equally. Inclusion and recognition of women can only be achieved through education, meaningful engagement and participation of men and boys, with all genders acting as equal partners to build a just and equal society.
May we all renew our commitment to an equal future for men and women in Sri Lanka and the world.