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INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2022

12 March 2022 06:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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“Imagine a world where all females, in the East and the West, were treated as equals. The house of women is vast and unfinished. The west wing is fairly complete. Most of us who live there enjoy privileges such as the right to vote and run for office. We have access to education and may support ourselves if we choose. We’ve convinced most of our legislators that domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape are crimes. We have control over our bodies and our sexuality; parents, teachers and leaders may coach us, but not coerce us into or out of relationships. Prospective mates may woo and worship but must swallow their pride if we reject them.

Go East and you’ll find that the house is unfinished. Parts of it have been started, then abandoned and are now falling into ruin. In others, every time a wall goes up someone bulldozes it down. In what should have been beautiful courtyards are shallow unmarked graves, wherein lie girls who died because they were deemed not worth feeding. In the East, some girls are transported as property, often with their parents’ connivance, to gratify adults’ sexual desires. Girls work the land, fetch the water, tend to livestock, cook and clean from dawn to dusk with no pay. Others are beaten with impunity. Hundreds of thousands die while giving birth because they lack the most basic hygiene and health care. In some corners of the East, women are not happy when they learn they’re pregnant. Often, they get a doctor to check the sex of the unborn child. If it’s a girl, the doctor removes it, and if the woman can’t afford the abortion, the child, once born, is suffocated or left alone to die.
In the Middle of the East, most women are banished from the public rooms, and when they are glimpsed at all they are covered from head to toe in garments dark and ugly. Many never learn to read or write; they are forced into marriage and seem to live pregnant ever after. They have no reproduction rights. If they are raped, the burden of proof lies on them to show their innocence, and in some rooms, women and girls as young as thirteen are publicly flogged and stoned to death for sexual disobedience. In the eastern side of the house, some people are so terrified by a woman’s sexuality that they cut the genitals of girl children, mutilating and branding them with the mark of ownership.” 
Ayaan Hirsi Ali.


 

MALIK FERNANDO
Managing Director, Resplendent Ceylon / Director, DILMAH

Whether it is agriculture, apparel, overseas workers or keeping the home fires burning; women power our nation. Every day is woman's day. As Margaret Thatcher once said, “If You Want Anything Ask a Man, If You Want Anything Done Ask a Woman.” I hope I won't upset the men too much with this statement. 

HIRAN COORAY
Chairman, Jetwing Symphony PLC

 


 

DIAN GOMES
Honorary Consul of Georgia / Former Chairman, Hela Clothing (PVT) Ltd. 
 

International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the significant contribution made by women across all aspects of society from the arts and science to sports and politics. I am happy to say that my wife and I have raised two strong-willed and fiercely independent daughters of whom we are immensely proud. I’ve also been lucky enough to work alongside many incredible women both in sports and in the corporate world, too many in number to name here.
Sadly, proper gender equality still alludes us but things are moving in the right direction. I hope to see a fair and equal society in my lifetime.
 


 

MP SAJITH PREMADASA
Leader of the Opposition

International Women’s Day has been officially celebrated since the 1960s with the UN recognizing it officially in 1977. International Women’s day celebrates the impact of Women and Girls on society, on culture and on the economy, but more importantly, today we pay homage to the revolutionary spirit of the many women that organized, struggled and demanded equality throughout the ages. Sri Lankan society today stands on the shoulders of giants such as Vivienne Goonewardene, Doreen Wickramasinghe, Siva Obeysekere, Wimala Wijewardene, Selina Perera, Kumari Jayawardena and many others. The policy-led economic and social crisis in Sri Lanka is affecting all of us, however on International Women’s Day, it is only right that I make a special mention of all the mothers, sisters, daughters and women in all corners of the country, that make sacrifices on a daily basis for the benefit of their families, their loved ones and their communities. Whether it is a mother taking on the burden of her children’s education or whether it is a daughter taking on an extra shift at the factory to help pay for her father’s medication, whether it is the woman that wakes up at before sunrise to cook the meals before going into a 12 hour a day job but still struggles to make ends meet. Take the teacher’s pay anomalies, a profession that is significantly taken up by women. Women are the vast majority of victims of domestic violence but our institutions are ill-equipped. When my campaign proposed the sanitary napkin program in 2019, politicians laughed, but period poverty is a major issue the world over. Everywhere we turn, women are being exploited and we must as a society, must do better.


 


MP DR. HARSHA DE SILVA
Member of Parliament, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB)

Imagine a world without gender disparity. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. The Global Gender Gap Report 2021 ranks Sri Lanka 116 out of 156 countries, 14 places below from the year 2020. Today, women are twice as likely as men to be unemployed, and barely 9% of Sri Lankan firms have women in top managerial positions. Gender equality is not just a women’s issue but an economic issue, as Sri Lanka’s GDP could grow significantly in the long-run by closing its gender gap in the workforce. Crucial reform of our labor laws are required to pave the way for more women participation. In addition to inheritance laws that are unequal. Moreover, women remain acutely underrepresented in the political sphere as well, low as 5.4%, while women represent around 54% of the population. Cultural norms and gender stereotypes have direct implications on women’s educational pursuits, career longevity, and ability to participate in decision-making roles, thus let us #breakthebias and bring about gender equality in Sri Lanka. Together we can forge a gender equal society. 


 

 

 

MP HARIN FERNANDO
Member of Parliament, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB)

 

On Women’s Day, I wish to remind all Sri Lankans of our collective responsibility and duty to ensure that all women have the same freedoms, opportunities and liberties as men. Despite our history of having elected female leaders, I am conscious of the very real challenges that women in Sri Lanka face. The SJB are committed to ending all forms of discrimination against women and to ensure equal opportunity for everyone. We will  create safer streets, safer work places and safer homes for all our women.
 


 

ARITHA WICKREMASINGHE
International Banking and Finance Lawyer / Equality Director, iProBono / LGBTIQ Activist

We live in a world and a country where more than half its population is denied opportunity, denied a voice on how to lead their own lives and denied control over their own bodies because of their gender. Despite all these obstacles and the very real fact of legal, political and cultural inequality, women have achieved greatness and continue to push the boundaries of greatness for humanity. Imagine, what we as a people can achieve if we gave all women the same opportunity and agency that we give men? Imagine the limitless potential of humanity if we didn’t spend our energy subjugating and controlling one half of our species? Imagine the dreams of every little child that can be fulfilled if we didn’t draw lines on what their gender was capable of? This is what Women’s Day is about to me. It reminds of the greatness of women, it emboldens me to work towards ending their oppression and it gives me hope of a better, more equal world for everyone.


 


KUSUM WIJETILLEKE
PHD Candidate, International Relations / Writer / Political Activist

Society has been conditioned to place value on work based on ‘productivity’ as measured and rewarded in businesses and workplaces. We must also recognize the significant amount of ‘work’ that takes place in our homes, which involves raising children and caring for elders, work that is predominantly undertaken by women. This International Women’s Day, I would like to focus on the concept of work and its relationship to value. Care-work receives little economic recognition because it is unpaid. Further, domestic workers, nurses, nannies, teachers are all essential workers. Across industries, you find that some of the most challenging and crucial work in society is being carried out by women, who are not adequately rewarded for that work. Care-giving and raising children are not even considered ‘economic activities’. In order to correct this imbalance, we have to re-evaluate our concept of ‘work’ and ‘value’. 


 

SANDEEP RODRIGO
Customer Experience Strategist

Before posting a ‘Happy Women’s Day’ post on Social Media, take a minute to consider what you have actually done in the past year to make women feel safer, more equal, valued, cared for, and celebrated.  We need to make Sri Lanka a better and empowered place for women and not just post on Social Media once a year. (This goes out to brands too!)

 


 

RASIKA JAYAKODY
Founder, NextGen SL and Member of the United National Party 

Every year, during the first week of March, we post very empowering and encouraging messages on Social Media ahead of International  Women’s Day. We have done it this year as well. But, do we ever stop for a moment to assess whether we have made any meaningful progress in the past twelve months? Have we passed any law in Parliament seeking to address some of the key issues faced by women across the country? Have we attempted to create a new pathway for capable women from diverse backgrounds to take up political leadership in Sri Lanka; not just the wives, daughters and sisters of existing politicians! Have we done anything to create a country where women can move around freely on the streets without getting bullied and harassed? Have we spent another year simply ‘talking’ and doing nothing?


 

HIRAN COORAY 

Chairman, Jetwing Symphony PLC

Women have played a critical role in developing the tourism industry in Sri Lanka over the years. Some have pioneered in developing the arts and crafts to market to tourists, while others have been involved in marketing the destination internationally. When it comes to hospitality, we are proud to have with us ladies who manage some of our leading hotels and continue to inspire the next generation of women leaders in the industry.

 

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