Empowering womanhood :
Rural areas - the midpoint of prosperity
Southern Province Governor Kumari Balasuriya is
hailed as the first and only female Provincial Governor of Sri
Lanka. She has also renewed her record by being reappointed for the
second consecutive term of office as Governor.
While marking the 101st International Women’s
Day, the Sunday Observer had the opportunity to interview her.
The following are the excerpts of the interview:
SO: Madam Governor, you have brought much honour and pride to the
entire womanhood of Sri Lanka by becoming the first and only Woman
Governor of a province in Sri Lanka and reappointed for a second term as
As a topmost woman administrator and leading woman activist, how do
you perceive the growth of International Women’s day celebration?
Governor: Well, the International Women’s Day initially started as a
socialist political event.
It was originally called the International Working Women’s Day.
However with the passage of time, it is, at present, celebrated in
different parts of the world as a festival of respect, appreciation and
love towards women with special focus on women’s economic, political and
Although the event emerged from the activities of labour movements at
the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe, in
addition to the political objectives, nowadays, the “Day” is fostered
and blended with cultural social and above all rich feminist concepts.
In view of the International Year of Women, on March 8, 1975 the
United Nations held the first official felicitation of the International
They also made an earnest solicitation from the member States to mark
the “Day” annually in accordance with their own cultural, social,
economic and political traditions and practices inherent to their
Furthermore, in 1977 the General Assembly of UN adopted a resolution
declaring the IWD as the International day of United Nations for Rights
of Women and International Peace.
Thus at present IWD has become a global annual celebration for the
liberation of global womanhood.
SO: Last year the world celebrated the centenary of the IWD on a
How was this universal event being able to contribute towards lifting
the status of global womanhood?
Governor: Since the inception IWD has been commemorated under
different themes each year.
It is true that still the woman suffers prejudices, injustices,
destitution and discrimination, despite the fact that the world
community has been holding the global women’s day for over 100 years.
Nevertheless these celebrations have been able to contribute towards
the progress of the womanhood and focus the world’s attention on various
problems and issues related to womanhood.
This year IWD is felicitated under the theme of “Empowering Rural
Womanhood and End Hunger and Poverty”.
We should have a realistic and authentic agenda with proper approach
in celebrating this universal celebration of the woman in order to
achieve the anticipated goals of the event.
SO: What is the specific impact of this year’s theme of IWD has on
Sri Lanka, as you stated?
Governor: Currently the nature of war has changed. Modern conflicts
that we witness today are quite different from those we experienced in
90 per cent of the people who die in modern conflicts are not
soldiers but civilians and many of those casualties are women and
children. Rape has become a weapon of war.
Villages have become the battle ground, dividing communities along
racial, religious or ethnic lines.During the past 30 years, until 2009,
our country also underwent similar hardships and grievances owing to the
brutal terrorist war at which our women were affected irrespective of
regional or provincial divisions. All such misery and grievances have
been ended as a result of glorious victory over LTTE terrorism by our
heroic forces under the profound political leadership of President
The highest dividends of the war victory were achieved by the Sri
As such on this occasion of the 101st International women’s Day all
women in Sri Lanka salute the President for liberating them from the
vicious grip of terrorism.
SO: But many alleged that even after years of holding this global
commemoration, sufferings, injustices, prejudices and discriminations
towards the woman still persist worldwide.
What is your comment on these accusations?
Governor: Yes, there is truth in such allegations. We have celebrated
this “Day” on a grand scale yearly.
We all are obliged and responsible to look back along the past track
of this annual event and evaluate the factual contribution and
commitment of it towards fortifying the womanhood.
It is indeed regrettable to note that even in countries recognised as
developed, lack of female freedom, deprivation of women’s rights and
privileges and impediments on woman development can be still witnessed.
I believe that it is much crucial and essential to have a genuine
appraisal of the contribution of these annual celebrations towards
raising the womanhood.
SO: For the past few decades, Sri Lanka also has celebrated this
international event both under State and non-governmental sponsorship
with much grandeur.
As a prominent female administrator and a leading women activist, are
you contended with the outcome or returns of such festivals in upholding
the Sri Lankan womanhood especially with regard to the rural woman?
Governor: A characteristic of International Women’s Day celebrations
in Sri Lanka is that it is sadly limited only to a small number of
organisation of well heeled social layer of the country.
The issues and grievances of the majority of women who struggle under
much difficult conditions for their livelihood cannot be redressed by
holding mere conferences, delivering lectures and holding festivals in
view of the IWD.
Instead, practical and meaningful plans with farsighted vision should
be formulated and implemented aimed at empowering of rural womanhood.
Following the restoration of peace, unity and harmony throughout the
country, a much conducive and stable social, economic and political
situation has been created in Sri Lanka for sustainable development for
rural womanhood of Sri Lanka.
Making the utmost use of the peaceful situation, the government,
under Mahinda Chintana – has launched a massive development drive for
the growth of rural economy with prominence to the empowerment of rural
In accordance with the concept of “Power of the village to the
country” the government has implemented special programs to make every
rural village a midpoint of prosperity.
SO: What is your message for the Sri Lankans on this occasion of
International women’s day 2012?
Governor: Let us all resolve in unity with firm determination to work
with improved enthusiasm and devotion towards the advancement of rural
womanhood with reinforced vision and practical methodology on the
occasion of 101st IWD in place of colourful festivities which have no
positive impact on the Sri Lanka woman.