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Women Empowerment

Successful Stories 

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R. Shivashankari, 29, Choughleigh Janapada, Paradeka got married soon after completing A/L examination. She was happy to stay at home and engage in household work since her husband didn’t like her working outside. She was very creative and was good in stitching, designing, painting etc.
When our mobilizer visited her place, she saw few wall- hangings designed by her and asked whether she is interested in following a dress making course at VTA vocational training center. As per the mobilizer’s assistance, Shivashankari attended 8 days “Divimagata Athwelak” skill development training program. This training, in deed was helpful for her to enhance her skills. Nowadays, she gets lot of orders for curtain designs & saree designs. Impressed by her creativity, she was asked by few other women to conduct training programs for them as well.

 

 

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T. Chithra of Kaloogalle has been unemployed for years. She did not wish to find employment outside home since she believed that her prime duty is to look after her children.  However, she always wanted to start a self-employment to bring some income to the family.

In 2013, she joined Kaloogalle Minnum Rojakal Mahalir Manram Women’s Community based Organization formed by ISD. The WCBO workshops conducted by ISD time to time gave her the opportunity to interact with other WCBO members who had already started small scale enterprises such as soap making, candle making, batik & saree designing, stitching bags, baby suits etc. Inspired by their work and progress, Kaloogalle CBO members requested   a well experienced soap trainer from new peacock CBO to conduct an exchange soap training program for 15 members on 12.09.2015. 

Chithra too participated in the training. On that day, she determined to initiate a small scale business by soap making as it required low-cost row material and less time.  It’s been few months since then and today her soap has become popular in her estate and she has started providing soap in stocks to few estate shops as well. 

 

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 S. Roshini, 32, Dickwella estate, practically worked almost every day from 8.00am to 5.30pm. She joined the small fancy good’s shop in Haliela four years back as a sale’s girl.

In the beginning of the last year, ISD mobilizer came across Roshini during a field visit to Haliela town. Initially she was reluctant to speak to the mobilizer as she was afraid that her employer might notice her talking to a stranger. Despite of the hesitancy, our mobilizer determined to meet her and exchange few words whenever she visited the town. However, she soon observed that Roshini’s response to join the union was not very pleasing as she expressed her displeasure towards unions. Further, it was little puzzling for her to believe that there could be a union for shop workers like her. To win her faith, she explained in detail about the union activities showing the photographs and other published materials. At that moment, she interrogated whether her husband could join the union for her. The mobilizer then explained that there aren’t many unions for women workers and think it over and tell her later.
In the month of May, she came all the way from Badulla to Pussellawa to take part in the International Labour Day Program. Having taken part, she realized that it is important to join the union and improve her knowledge on rights. From that day onwards, whenever there is a field discussion, she got the habit of drop by and learn something. She soon realized that she did not enjoy most of the basic labour rights. Even though she has been working in the shop for nearly 4 years, she is not entitled for any social security schemes such as Employee Provident Fund (EPF) or Employee Trust Fund (ETF). She has no records of her salary. Nevertheless, the most rankling problem in her mind was the holiday. Before joining the union, she had gone and asked about the leave issue with the employer and he had not even considered about her matter. Soon after joining the union, she tried her luck but failed again. Things discussed during the discussions, she understood that she alone cannot bargain for her rights hence, she mobilized her fellow employees. She did not go along this time but with 06 other employees demanding the employer to give at least Sunday a holiday. Employer was alarmed by the request of the employees and agreed to give a holiday for all the employees working under him. This is certainly a comfort for all the workers.
Concluding her interview Roshini stated that “for years, we all grieved every single day because we didn’t have a single day off and worked all 365 days yet continue to tolerate not knowing the severity of the violation of our rights until I joined Working Women’s Rights. “Right to rest” is mandate. No one can curtail that ensured right of the worker. I learned all these things after joining the union and I am so glad I did."  

 

BeFunky Collage 2“I didn’t know what to do with my life after failing O/L exams. When I participated in the gender & youth workshop, I felt that I could use my talents to earn a living. Here I’m succeeded and thrilled!“ V. Preshanthini

 17 year old V. Preshanthini of New Peacock estate spent most of her time staying at home. She did nothing but watching TV and meddling with her phone. Every day she used to waste her money on phone cards. Her parents advised her many times but she was too stubborn to listen.  When our mobilizer of Uda Palatha met her last February, she felt that it is important to help her find the correct path in her life. She suggested her to take part in the gender and youth workshop held in last April. In the workshop, she was able to win a prize for the poster she drew her for an activity. She was content of her talent.

After the workshop, when mobilizer met again and asked her whereabouts, she told that she is interested in starting a self-employment. Mobilizer asked her to do something she likes and show it to her when she pay a visit next time. She nicely designed a pair of earrings and showed it to the mobilizer. The mobilizer encouraged her to design more fancy goods like earrings, necklaces, wall hangings etc... Impressed by her creativity, her father gave some money to buy more materials. With the materials she bought, she started designing clothes, wall hanging and jewelries. Mobilizer introduced her products to few fancy goods shops in Pussellawa and they agreed to buy her products. Now she has started a small business and hoping to do better with the profit she gained. 

 

12189006 959995804048606 6757289423120507322 nI could hear appa coming home late in the evening.  When he is drunk, his words and actions are out of control.  His words are abusive and always accused me and amma for everything on earth. When we tried to response, he beats us mercilessly.  I was fed up of living at home”.

M. Priya

 

M. Priya of Bohill estate is the youngest daughter in the family. She has an elder brother and a sister both working outside the estate. Priya lived with her parents. She studied up to O/L and she joined a garment factory since she could not be a burden to her mother. 

In the month of September, Priya attended the ISD Gender and youth workshop held in Nawalapitiya.  She paid extra attention to the session on gender and bodily rights since she found it interesting and relevant to her life. She had heard about domestic violence but didn’t really know what she faces every day is domestic violence. As she listened to the police officer, she realized that what they have been going through all this time is not right. The expression “Zero tolerance to violence” rankled in her mind. She always wanted to put a stop for her father’s alcoholism and bickering at home but didn’t know where to get assistance. In the police officers session, he mentioned about the measures that can be taken in such situation.

After attending the workshop, she thoroughly determined to end her father’s abusive behavior. As usual her father came home drunk in the evening and started the usual drill. She could not tolerate this time and she gave a call to the police hotline- 119. Within 1 hour, the police arrived to the place and inquired about the complaint.  Priya without hesitation explained the officers about her father’s behavior. The policemen accused Priya’s father for misusing power and control over family and thoroughly advised him to not to repeat such behavior in the future. Failing of which, he will be taken into police custody. It been nearly 3 months since the incident took place and Priya’s father has not troubled them.  Concluding the interview Priya’s expressed that “somebody had to stop his nasty behavior. It’s true that he is my father. But I would not tolerate his ill-treatment”. 

 

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“We know who working Women’s Front (WWF) is and we know whom you represent. So from here onwards we are all with you”

M. Juliet of Dickwella started her story with this remark.  She has been working at Dickwella Tea factory for nearly four years. She was one of the casual workers who worked without being entitled for any benefits other than the wage. She worked from 8.30am till 9.00pm and more often she had to undertake excessive hours of shifts. Life was not easy for any female worker in the factory. At times, during the night shifts, supervisors ordered them to work inside the factory, lock them up and return home. In the morning, supervisors would come and unlock the premises. The state of the female workers was at insecure.

On 12 May 2015, they all raised their voice against the treatment and initiated a strike against the estate management.  Juliet was a member of WWF and had taken part in the May Day rally this year.  Since she knew about the background of the union, she thought it is wise to inform the ISD mobilizer. When the mobilizer witnesses the strike and met the participants, she soon realized that female workers need a good understanding with regard to labour rights. Hence, she immediately contacted the WWF office and requested a staff member to come and conduct a meeting. With that request, one member went to Attampitiya Community Centre on 16th May 2015 to educate them on labour rights and assist them to come up with demands.

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Afterwards, including the demands of the female workers, a petition comprised of 18 demands was submitted to the department of labour. Juliet played a leading role in bringing out the demands of the female workers when the petition was submitted. The strike ended on 25th May with the coalition of estate workers and the management. The management promised them to take measures to ensure their violated rights. 17 workers (15 are females including Juliet) who had been working for 2 or more years were given permanent appointments. 07 female workers from Dickwella estate joined WWF after the incident. Juliet and other new members proudly said “we just began to empower ourselves. We have only started our struggle and there’s a long way.  With the knowledge we are going to gain in future union activities, we can definitely do better”