Women, key to nation building - Ms.Sithamparanathan

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 23 March 2004, 00:26 GMT]
"I feel our freedom is near our door-step. Tamil men and women have a duty to welcome this freedom and fully engage themselves in nation building activities. Particularly our women have a significant role to play in building our nation," said Pathmini Sithamparanathan, first woman candidate standing for elections in Tamil National Alliance (TNA) ticket in Jaffna, talking to the Canadian Tamil Radio, Monday.

Jaffna Women's Meeting
Ms.Sithamparanathan with LTTE women's wing political leader Thamilini in a Jaffna Women's event
CTR: Can you tell us the reasons for your decision to compete in the forthcoming elections?
Ms.Sithamparanathan: Instead of saying that I am competing in the election, I like to say that I have accepted to carry out an important responsibility placed on me. Difficulties women face in our society have not been properly articulated or addressed. By participating in the elections I would like to gain some authority to address and resolve the special burdens and hardships of Tamil women. I have worked closely with women in different districts and listened to the pain and misery of many Tamil women affected by war. By providing the necessary emotional, psychological support we can bring many of the women back as productive citizens.

CTR: As graduate teacher you were teaching at Chundukili Girls college and have been actively involved in several communty projects which dealt with women issues. How were you selected as the candidate among many other women?
Ms.Sithamparanathan: We are participating in the elections to take forward a policy established by our Tamil National leadership. The leadership expressed its desire to give this responsibility to me. I accepted without reservations.

Jaffna Nominations
Jaffna TNA woman candidate Ms Pathmini Sithamparanathan
CTR: How is your campaign proceeding? Are people giving you a lot of support?
Ms.Sithamparanathan: Since this is a new experience for me there are difficulties that I have to overcome. I am encouraged by the support given to me not only by women but men too.

CTR: Women in Jaffna and generally in our society do not actively engage in politics.
Ms.Sithamparanathan: Only by sustained action can we bring awareness among Tamil women of the important issues affecting women. We have to continue follow-up work to instill confidence to our women so that they can slowly take active roles.

CTR: Do you think women will vote in large numbers this time?
Ms.Sithamparanathan: We are stressing this repeatedly in our election meetings. For several years elections meant little to the Tamils. But this time the elections are important. In the last elections only 30% voted. We are telling our people the need to raise this figure to more than 90% in the forthcoming elections.

CTR: You mentioned that you have to overcome some difficulties during your campaign. Are these related to campaign issues or are these thrust on you by other groups?
Ms.Sithamparanathan: Both components are present. Since I am campaigning for the first time, there are issues related to organization and planning of events. We have improved a lot with time. There have also been minor difficulties introduced by other groups. These are not major in anyway.

CTR: Other groups reports say are moving around with SLA protection. Are you also given any protection?
Ms.Sithamparanathan: The security forces do not give us any protection.

CTR: In the last elections some TULF candidates were attacked and received injuries. Is personal security a concern to you?
Ms.Sithamparanathan: I am not overly concerned about my personal security. At least until now. We have to wait and see if the situation changes.

CTR: In addition to emphasizing the cardinal principles related to Tamil nationalism what other requests are you placing in front of our voters?
Ms.Sithamparanathan: Only after we remove the burdens of our affected women can we ask them to contribute to our society. So we have to listen to them first. Help them to come out their psychological trauma and after this healing process only we can expect to gain from their skills and intellectual qualities. They have to be given proper training to reach their potential. Because I feel our freedom is near our door-step. Tamil men and women have a duty to welcome this freedom and fully engage themselves in nation building activities. Particularly our women have a significant role to play in building our nation. Villages are the hearts of our nation. Our culture is pristinely safeguarded in these areas. We need to plan to uplift the lives of families in these villages.

CTR: Have there been any improvements in the lives of women in Jaffna in the last several years?
Ms.Sithamparanathan: I don't think there have been any improvement. They have been living in a state of fear. It will take a patience and consistent effort to bring them, especially the ones traumatized by war .

CTR: News reports said that several hundred women assembled in the meeting where you were first introduced as TNA candidate?
Ms.Sithamparanathan: It was a tremendously uplifting event. Hundreds of women were enthused that finally there is some one who will be given authority to raise problems related to women in a national, international forums.


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