The scars that were created by the war have not only resulted in the downfall of the Tamil people, but have also affected us. The scars and pains that were caused by the war are experiences that cannot be forgotten by the Tamil people of the North, even today.
Even though our loved ones who were the reason behind my entry into politics have departed from us, its impact can still be felt. I, Thanuja Jeyarajah, have faced many challenges as I progressed in life. Even though I continued my educational activities at Chundukuli Girls’ College, I was compelled to shift from one school to another due to the impact of the war. Both my parents were government officials. I lost both of them when I was very young, and was looked after by my mother’s sister. I grew up with five brothers. Later on, I worked as a teacher at a private school.
Even though I lost all contacts with my husband after he traveled abroad subsequent to our marriage, I was able to look after both my children as a single parent. I lost my eldest son in an unexpected manner due to an accident. It was his dream that I step into politics. I am now serving the people with a life loaded with pain.
I have recently taken steps to help children who have lost their parents to improve their educational activities. I am assisted by several well wishers from abroad who help me carry out this work. In addition, I also carry out relief work with the help of members of our community who are abroad. Even though I have not got opportunities to carry out large scale activities through politics, I have been able to carry out several projects pertaining to self-employment with the help of our people abroad. In addition, I have also initiated several projects to provide drinking water, build toilets facilities, and also to provide assistance to a few churches.
From a political point of view, since my entry into politics is through territorial representation, carrying out my political activities through the pradeshiya sabha is very challenging.
The women in our community are facing numerous challenges. For example, if a woman has lost her husband, many men attempt to misuse or abuse her. There have been many instances where women have had to face persuasions during their attempts to get their work done. In the event women take on positions which provide them with authority, men who do not agree with such appointments often create troubles for them. There are men who think that working for a woman is degrading. Even though there are improvements on several aspects regarding women, they still need awareness on several issues.
For example, a woman who lives alone should be aware of persecutions that she could face. I have on some occasions, taken steps to provide awareness to women who face such problems. There are women who choose to leave their homes and look for alternative routes due to the problems they face in their homes and other places. In such situations, they tend to choose the wrong path. As a teacher and a principal, I have had the opportunities to show the right path, especially to the young women who face such situations.
It should be noted that many steps have been taken for the education of students. These activities have been carried out with the help of trusts and with assistance from those who are abroad. Even today, we are able to provide education for students below the poverty line without charging them any money. I have not yet got opportunities to expand my work beyond the region. However, I have been able to initiate several social welfare projects within the region. As far as employment opportunities are concerned, I have been able to help the youth beyond the region with job opportunities. My goal is to ensure that those who live below the poverty line are provided with jobs.
Even though I do not have much knowledge on politics, I have been made a member of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) due to my services to the people, which I had carried out regardless of party affiliations, and due to the dream of my son. Even though many have been critical of my party during my political journey, the party headquarters has not discriminated women and has given women their due position. It should also be noted that the party recruited many women as members during the local government elections. There have been instances where some men have refused to acknowledge women who have worked hard with excellent skills and abilities. There are some who cause obstruction even when the party leadership gives the rightful place for women for their skills.
We are compelled to fight for our rights. When we fight back, we are criticised based on our behaviour and activities. They attempt to disrespect us, and therefore, it is very challenging for us. However, I am carrying out the duties given to me by the party headquarters despite these challenges. Currently I am a member of the Valikamam Pradeshiya Sabha, representing the 11th circuit.
I could not fully involve in the campaign activities during the election period due to the situation I was in at the time. However, I was elected to the pradeshiya sabha through the proportional representation system. Even then, it is sad to note that there are groups which attempt to sabotage any move to voice for our rights. Even though I did not get any opportunities to take part in training sessions conducted by voluntary organisations before I stepped into politics, I was able to attend many training programmes after I started my political journey. There have been occasions where the pradeshiya sabha had not informed us of such training programmes. I did not have any experience during the initial stages of the council meetings. However, I gained complete knowledge about the process as time progressed.
As far as politics is concerned, I oppose 25% of women representation. I demand appropriate percentage for women in national politics. There are many wealthy individuals who step into politics.As many enter into politics based on money, many who enter through the proportional representation system are not in a position to indulge in their social work properly.In addition, I have on many occasions also called on all councils to take steps to ensure the rights of all women. Though there are times when my calls face stiff opposition, I have been able to win the rights as my voice was louder and stronger.
They are of the view that committees that are formed by councils should consist of senior members, especially males. Even though I did not have adequate clarity on the matter, I was able fight for it and be part of the committees later on. Our intention is to ensure that women are included in the finance, health and planning committees.
There are also occasions where we do not get the amount which is allocated for public service in the annual budget estimates. We are compelled to put up a fight to get the above funds. I have argued with the Chairperson and have been successful in getting the funds for road renovation.
Most of the people in my region do not know the national language. Language becomes a big barrier on occasions where we have to brief government officials on our situation. Therefore, language trainings should also be part of the training programmes that are conducted by voluntary organisations.
There are instances where even the members of the party express their opposition when we get absorbed into the national political realm. Whether provincial council elections or parliamentary elections, I am ready to take up any opportunities that I get despite all the challenges. In addition, I have also taken steps to identify skilled women and absorb them into politics. Women’s participation in politics must increase. In addition, the jealousy among the male politicians must be eradicated. All the women should join forces to win the political aspirations of our people. If not, our community will have to remain stagnant in their current situation for a long time.
(THIS IS A PRODUCT OF ONE TEXT INITIATIATIVE & OTI IS RSPONSIBLE FOR THIS SHORTER & EDITED VERSION OF THE TEXT)