Tamil women's event concludes with plan of action

[TamilNet, Monday, 08 September 2003, 19:35 GMT]
The gathering of Tamil women’s associations at the Vavuniya Town Hall concluded its three-day event Saturday with a serious plan of action that seeks to identify and solve problems of women through village level associations and empower them with education and self-employment skills, sources said.

The third and concluding day's events started with a welcome speech by Ms. Ramani, the president of the Vavuniya North women’s association. The event was presided over by Ms. Alai, the head of the Vavuniya women’s political wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Ms. Alai said that the participants at the women’s gathering, when they go back to their villages, should implement the plans arrived at the event in their respective villages. “Be focused and determined in achieving your goals and not be intimidated by actions of sinister elements. You should not hesitate to apply the ideas you gathered at this event in your daily life,” she advised the participants.

“More than 1,700 women fighter sacrificed their lives for the betterment of your lives,” said Ms. Alai, “and you should all join together and fight to make their dreams come true. Every fighter’s life sacrifice--though it brings tears to one mother--is intended to make the lives of many mothers better. We are no longer prepared to accept the hardships that we have faced in the past. I hope that as a result of this women’s event, we will all be more unified and more awakened in working toward our goals.”

The Director of the Organization for Women’s Development and Rehabilitation (OWDR), Ms. Kalaimahal, described the activities of her organization. She said the organization was formed in 1991 to “support women affected by the war and rehabilitate and sustain their lives, on the recommendation of the Tamil Eelam National leader, Mr. V. Pirapaharan.”

The OWDR was initially based in Jaffna. The people most affected by the war are the women, and when they became destitute, the OWDR sought to give support to them, said Ms. Kalaimahal. The OWDR currently operates 5 welfare homes for women, namely, Vettimanai, Malarcholai, Mary Illam, Senthalir and Niraimathy.

Vettimanai takes care of those women whose mental health is affected by the war or due to harassment and assault by husband. Malarcholai takes care of pregnant women abandoned by their husbands and the children born in such circumstances.

Mary Illam takes care of young women affected by the war and economic deprivation. Senthalir takes care of children not attended to by relatives, orphaned and malnourished. There are currently 92 children aged 9 months to 16 years at this home. The children are sent to schools.

Niraimathy takes care of children with poor mental development. Currently 15 children are attended to at this home.

The OWDR is a registered Non Governmental Organization and operates with assistance from International NGOs.

In addition, the OWDR operates a few vocational training centers under the name “Uthyatharahai,” said Ms. Kalaimahal, and she asked the gathering to identify any women in villages who are in need of support through their local village women’s associations and to work jointly with the OWDR to support them.

Mr. S. Ezhilan, the head of the political division of the LTTE in Vavuniya, gave the guest speech. He said that as the Vavuniya district has been under the Sri Lankan military’s control for a long time, women have been affected in several ways. “Most of the complaints we have received relate to women; sexual harassment and assault and teenage marriage have been reported to us, “ Mr. Ezhilan said.

“The main reason for such problems,” said Mr. Ezhilan, “is life in refugee camps. Moreover, many families have faced dislocation, separation and loss and these families have confronted the problem of normal growth, understanding and awareness of proper sexual mores. Many are still being cheated by agents who entice them with tales of foreign employment.”

“They find that they have been hoodwinked by unscrupulous elements. The people should be aware of such actions and be vigilant. You will find success through your efforts. You have our support in your efforts,” Mr. Ezhilan said and spoke of the current political environment in the Northeast.

Mr. T. Sithamparanathan, a teacher from the University of Jaffna’s Vavuniya campus, explained the Pongu Thamil event to be held in Vavuniya. Ms. Pathmini, also of the same University campus, spoke of modern education. She said the current educational system in the country produced bookworms and it should be changed to inculcate original and creative thinking among students.

“When such a change in the educational system is effected,” she said, “women’s expectations should also be considered.”

Ms.Thamilkavi spoke on the Laws of Tamil Eelam and women’s rights. She explained the aspects of law that pertain to women’s issues, the importance of solving women’s problems through the law and finding justice. She also answered questions on the law by the participants.

Ms. Thamilini, the head of the women’s wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, explained how the plans and resolutions adopted at the event could be taken forward for implementation. “We, the fighters, too come from the same society. It is here at this gathering that we realized the strength of the fighters. And our liberation struggle brought out our strength. Realize your own strength. First break the mental barriers that impede progress,” she said.

“When you go back to your villages, explain the ideas and information you gathered at this event to others. Do not keep things to yourselves. Our national leader would often say that action should precede words. We should all join together and engage in action,” said Ms. Thamilini.

The following resolutions were adopted at the event.

1.Taking forward a plan of work for the village women’s associations

2.Identifying women lacking education in villages and educating them. The more educated people in their own villages should be used for this.

3.Teaching economic self-reliance, identifying young widows in villages and devising a work plan for them.

4.Creating awareness among women

5.Analyzing women’s problems individually and how best to create a work plan for them.

Ms. Thamilini explained the resolutions and said that the gathering should not just be a gathering that disperses and gets back to inaction, but one that should walk watchfully but resolutely in the difficult path ahead toward its goal.

Ms. Biruntha, the head of the Organization for the betterment of Vavuniya women, identified the problems faced by women in the district and said the root causes were, cultural backwardness, Vavuniya being a transport hub, displacement and life in refugee camps, alcohol and drug use, and poverty. She said that her unit encouraged and promoted self-employment with a view to solving the problems through the women’s association.

The event concluded with an arts and cultural program at night.

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