My name is Nagenthiran Tharsini. I reside in central camp area of Navithanveli in the Ampara District. I completed my primary education at Senaikkudiyiruppu Maha Vidyalayam and continued my higher studies in Kalmunai. I did not pursue higher studies after my Advanced Level. Subsequently I was involved in community-based voluntary work. My father was arrested by the military when I was a small child. I have not heard anything of him till now. My mother’s parents were a pillar of strength when my mother, younger brother and I faced numerous difficulties. I have two daughters now.
From my younger days, I have had the tendency of being concerned of problems faced by others and to help them. I used to provide help and assistance as required by the people when I was attached to the charity organization, Sarvodaya. I was attached to the finance division of the organization. Apart from providing advise to problems pertaining to women and children, I also helped them in numerous ways as and when they needed. In the year 2005. I joined an organization named Peace Organization. During the middle part of the year 2003, I was involved in activities to provide relief items to people who were displaced from Muttur due to fighting. I was the only woman who worked along with a team of young men attached to the organization. There was a time when I was compelled to live in hiding due to interferences by the military and the undercover police (CID??).
Subsequently I worked to help those who were affected by the tsunami catastrophe. In addition, I completely undertook the educational expenses of a child. I worked with an individual named Muthukumar who hailed from Kandy. I worked with him to obtain information regarding the people who were affected. We in turn provided the information to voluntary organisations so that the people could receive assistance and relief. My uncle is the sole reason for all that I did. There was a time when I was feeling mentally down. He was the one who motivated me and directed me towards social work during that time. As time went by, it was I who made a conscious decision to help those who are affected, while being among them.
Most of the women in the community are victims of poverty. There are individuals who abuse young girls who belong to families that are below the poverty line. One such incident took place some time ago. I have worked regarding issues faced by women who are employed in in shops, and I have also been instrumental in ensuring that their needs are fulfilled. Women are affected by microfinances which are targeted towards them. in addition, women face difficulties due to lack of work. Women who have been abandoned by their husbands, and those who have lost their husbands face numerous difficulties due to lack of employment.
In that context, I am currently in the process of taking steps to provide sewing machines to selected women. There are women who have been pushed towards prostitution due to poverty. I have taken steps to provide assistance to such women as well. I have paid special attention to help women who have lost their livelihoods. I am also carrying out projects to provide to those who are sick. However, there are people who are not satisfied no matter how much we serve the community.
As far as our village is concerned, people mostly do not prefer to work as a group. Unlike in the towns, there are no working groups in our village. Therefore, I carry out a few projects with the help of members of a youth group and members of a budding group in the adjacent village. In addition, a few individuals too have come forward to help me. In some cases, I discuss certain matters with those who have experience. They too provide the necessary support as and when required. Last year, I was able to provide exercise books and school bags to school children with the support provided by such individuals. Other organizations which function externally also provide various types of assistance. There are several individuals who provide assistance politically. An organization named A.W provides counselling and other means of help to women who are victims of sexual abuse. Many including members attached to children’s organizations and youth organizations are working together.
We carry out our work without allowing politics to interfere into certain aspects, especially when working on addressing the requirements of the people. Apart from working with district level organizations, I also work on a national level on matters pertaining to protests regarding those who have been reported missing. I did not have any politician as a role model when I stepped into politics. During the initial stages, I was of the view that I cannot do politics without lying. I have held many discussions with Kalaiarasan, who is the district representative of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), on matters pertaining to my social work. However, subsequent to all the discussions, he has had expectations of involving me into politics. During his tenure as a provincial council member, I have spoken to him on many occasions regarding various problems in my village. At the time, when the selection of candidates was being carried out for the upcoming Pradeshiya Sabha election, the women unanimously proposed my name, Tharshini. It was the people of my area who brought me into politics. I did not enter into politics on my own will. Four political parties approached me. But I chose to contest under the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi. I have only spent Rs. 50,000 for the election. Apart from having been elected as a Pradehiya Sabha member, I also function as the head of the Women’s Wing of the TNA in the Ampara District.
As far as my political journey is concerned, our party head office has continuously extended its full support to me. I do not face any obstructions when I express my opinions during party meetings. There was an incident where there was an attempted attack on me pertaining to a motion that I had presented. The Navithanveli Pradeshiya Sabha has not allocated any funds for women so far. There was another incident where I was threatened by a member of another party when I opposed a politician who took our young girls in his vehicle after having promised them employment. Funds were allocated for the livelihoods of women based on my request, and I have commenced various projects for the said purpose. I also presented a motion, calling for the appointment of a women’s group for the region within the Navithanveli Pradeshiya Sabha, which was passed. I am currently involved in initiating several projects regarding the same. I had also requested for Tamil speaking female police officers to be appointed at the Navithanveli police station. My request has been accepted and steps are already underway to appoint suitable individuals.
During the selection process of the candidate, I did not face opposition from anyone except from one individual. However, I met with each of them personally and clarified certain issues. During the election campaign, some members of independent groups spread false information. They slandered me in their campaigns. However, the people of my region strengthened me based on the faith they had in me. Some political parties attempted to buy their votes by bribing people with money. Many men are not respectful of women who are elected based on proportional system. They believe that they only need women for the purpose of representation. They do send women for trainings and workshops.
We see a lot of changes among us due to the trainings carried out by non-governmental organisations. The trainings are provided on several aspects including how to file a motion, how to handle a motion, what kind of problems could be dealt according to the law, and how to do so. Such non-governmental organisations can be of help when handling situations where women representatives are affected. They have taken steps to provide awareness on how to handle media and social media, and on the Constitution of Sri Lanka. There needs to be patience when choosing women candidates. They are only looking for women to fill the candidate list and not looking at the need for women politicians. There are also male chauvinists who are of the view that women should not speak at council sessions. There have been times where they have obstructed us from speaking. Political parties should provide women with opportunities to express their opinions internally.
We have requested the party head office to nominate women candidates on behalf of women’s wing of each district at the upcoming provincial council election. We believe that our request will be accepted. Accordingly, my name has been proposed for Ampara District. The prevalent system is such that women mostly cast their votes to men. I believe that should change. All of us should unite beyond politics to address the needs of women. Women’s involvement in politics should increase more than the quota system.
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