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Friday, 07 May 2021 16:30

Filling the Vacuum of Women in Politics

In Sri Lanka, sectarian politics has polarised communities so much that politics has become a frustrating practice. However, democracy will not endure and flourish unless people can overcome these frustrations and keep believing in the concept.

Sumadhi Wasanthan, a Women’s Federation member from Jaffna, was not interested in politics but still believed that she had a responsibility to strengthen democratic practices - such grassroot beliefs reinforce democracy and help the fight against tyranny.

The road to resilience in democracy is not easy. Sumadhi, one of 40 women who participated in a training programme on everyday democracy, spoke of how she and her colleagues had to face many issues in fighting for democracy. Her greatest challenge was disputing conservative thinking patterns and misunderstandings in a context where sceptical voices were on the rise, which is why the resilience of regional communities to uphold democracy needs to be strengthened. Solidarity begins in partnerships between the cities and the regions that vouch for democracy.

One such strong partnership that strives to build a cohesive national identity is NPC’s Social Cohesion and Reconciliation (SCORE) Activity. Among many of its community interventions are training programmes on Resilient Communities through Everyday Democracy where strong community leaders such as Sumadhi are put through simulation activities including games and knowledge mobilisation sessions. The programmes are conducted in Ampara, Anuradhapura, Jaffna, Kandy, Kilinochchi, Monaragala, Mullaitivu, Trincomalee and Vavuniya districts.

Multi stakeholder engagement is key to building resilient democratic practices in communities. The community organizations and their leaders and the relevant local or national government representatives are brought together to seek solutions to issues that threaten community harmony and unity.

Sujeewa Jayaramashrama, a member of the local government authority in Jaffna who participated in a recent training programme, said that she has gained a deeper meaning of the concept of democracy. Sujeewa, who is keen to integrate the knowledge gained at the training programme in the conduct of her public duties, is committed to uphold democracy at the grassroots.

Chandrawadani Kandrarasa believes that a mother can make a huge change within her family. She feels that she can teach her children the values of being a citizen in a multi ethnic, multi religious and multi cultural country. Chandrawadani thinks that without including women in the democratic process, it will soon perish.

In a country where women in politics come from family dynasties, women like Chandrawadani aim at creating spaces for women from non-political families. Everyday democracy begins and sustains in practices of ordinary women like Chandrawadani, Sujeewa and Sumadhi who are the hope for democracy in countries where populist voices dominate. SCORE helps them.