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Comrade Dimuthu Attygala


An interview with the National Organizer of Socialist Women's Union, regarding the International Women's Day...

Q: How do you feel about the importance of the Women’s day falls on 8th of this March?

A: We get an opportunity to, at least to talk about the importance of this day was a result of the women who fought for this cause. It was on 8th of March in 1857, as a result of a struggle claiming the rights of women workers who were working at a garment (textile) factory in the New York City; this day was declared dedicated for women. It was endorsed by the Socialist International in response to a proposal made by Clara Setkin. Therefore it show the importance of it does matter to the women who are deprived of their rights. This day is also important not to the women who have taken granted their oppression as their fate but to the women who would fight against injustices that imposed upon them. Even 142 years before, there were women who had faced and struggled against injustices with great effort. So the present generation of women also should take in the experiences which have had the previous generation and make those contributions worth to the present.

Q: As a day which so important, do you think it receives enough attention from the Sri Lankan women ?

A: Not at all. Some of our Sri Lankan women do not know even that there is a day for women and when it falls on. Even though that some of them know that, no attention has been drawn to. Especially in factories, farms and offices a considerable percentage of women desolve their labour. In addition, there are a lot of women works in the Middle East countries. They are getting a very cruel treatment in the form of exploitation, sexual harassment and also being women they are living with usually serious problems.

The saddest side of that is not only they are totally ignorant of such a day for them, but also they have not even gained the knowledge about the reasons behind the pressure that they undergo. This fact itself shows we have a social obligation to make these women aware of situations as such.

Q: As you say what is the cause for the unawareness of the rights of the women majority and why it has become defunct ?

A: This situation is so critical because the society we live in called man dominant-society. It considers women as second class citizens, and the social attitude towards the women within the society itself, has caused this situation. It is the man who is benefited by all, from the point of the attitudes, economic conditions and the family at his command. In this sense, women are treated as delicate and to be ‘’’’’ from their small days, they have been brought up with feeding such attitudes. Their responsibilities also are decided by the society, through their own accepted norms. As a result, they feel that the ability to decision making is also not in their hands as well as opportunities for them are denied.

The most dangerous of all is that, to find the problems and their causes and gaining knowledge in proper way, have also been robbed of. It is this reason, which has caused their contribution, remain dormant and less in activities like politics. The thought of the society is that it’s not their subject and they do not deserve such a field. However we must change this tradition.

Q: As the Socialist Women’s Union do you have any program to change this trend and if so what is it ?

A: Yes we have a very clear program. We do not look at this, just as the other women organizations. The men should not be blamed that they created these problems. They should not take the responsibility either. With the beginning of the class-society and as the woman has become the second class citizen; she begins to suffer owing to these problems. She becomes a slave to her husband, whose economy is sound. We believe in a socialist society, which is independent and equal. The women cannot achieve that all alone. So our program is directed to make them realize about their problems and educate them to organize them against such oppression. It was the objective of our exhibition and seminar, we organized last year. Even this year too we organized a seminar on the Women’s Day, as a part of that program.

Shouting slogans and coming forward only on the women’s day functions and remain silent thereafter could not change this situation.

I would also like to say that those who live on the slogan of Women’s Liberation could not change this. Only an organized collectivity of women who could see the crisis in real terms would be able to solve this and they would have a correct path. Even in this very moment and daily in each year, we are committed to enlighten the women force and organize them with an awareness program.

Q: What are the obstacles before you in such an effort ?

A: This has become defunct because of their attitudes. Many are rather reluctant to even think of politics, under the impression that it’s not their duty. So in the impact on them by their parents, family members and dear ones etc. Another fact is that women in the society also respond them with severe resistance. Therefor we must encourage them to get rid of such backwardness and make an effort to have their knowledge improved. We feel this has become successful to a certain extent. A woman in our society has to perform different roles such as a mother; a wife and further, responsibilities and bonds have fettered her. I don’t mean that they should break all the barriers. But a woman too can add something to the society while fulfilling her mental and physical needs in the same way a man does it. This thought is very much rare in our society. Many think that the woman is an animal that could be confined to her activities at home. Thus all such obstacles are there, when we organize women in the correct path. I must say that in this very moment even we are able to work for a better change. We hope that we might be able to improve this condition more and more in future.

Q: Well finally, what message you do have to convey the Sri Lankan women ?

A: On behalf of the women who carry out their work with utmost dedication and to change this situation, we believe that there won’t be of any use with Women’s Day messages or celebrations. Despite of boastings of the leaders and authorities that women in Sri Lanka are living at ease under healthy conditions, the day to day life or Sri Lankan woman is so miserable. We the Union of Socialist Women, are prepared to take up the challenge to change the situation in a responsible manner. Therefore I would like to request all our fellow women that to defeat the conditions that oppress us join with us hand in hand. I invite them to come forward, without chasing behind lonely causes those who make use of oppressed women’s struggle. Without being disillusioned by the capitalist strategies, we must be wise to enter the correct path by holding hands together. Being organized with awareness, struggling against injustices, joining hands with the oppressed forces, we can correct our cause where it went wrong. Finally I wish you all enough strength and courage on this women’s day.