I, Kandiah Kalaivani, was forced to vacate my place of birth in the 1990s due to violence. I completed my primary education at the Mahizvattan school, my intermediate education at the Karadiyanaru Maha Vidyalayam, and studied for my Ordinary Level at the Kudiyiruppu Kalaimagal school. The troubles I faced over the following years forced me to shift many schools, resulting in me halting my Advanced Level studies halfway. At the time, my interests were towards self-employment, which in turn prompted me to attend many classes. In the end, I chose tailoring. Thereby, tailoring has today become my livelihood.
I got married in 2006. But my husband went missing. In addition, I lost my father too. I currently live with my mother.
I have faced many problems in my life. My father was shot and killed during the war. I was also imprisoned during the period. I was released after a prolonged struggle. Following my release, I started to get involved in activities that were focused towards the welfare of the people. Even though I am currently a member of a local government body, my goal is to enter parliament and serve the people. I contested for the Eravur Pradeshiya Sabha from the second circuit of Arumugaththaan Kudiyiruppu.
I started working for myself when I was in school. I was able to relate to problems faced by students from poor families to continue their academic activities. Therefore, I started to work on certain activities towards ensuring their education. Even though I had already started to donate funds to temples, I started to help these students following a request made by my teacher who wanted me help towards the betterment of education. I have commenced various initiatives along with the help of several private and social organisations.
Many women in the society are victims of domestic violence. In addition, there are also families with women who have been abandoned by their husbands, or women who have lost their husbands. Women with infants are forced to go to work due to their situation. In addition, there are women who have been assaulted by their husbands.
Even though there are several initiatives that are aimed at helping such women, there are instances where the husbands benefit from them and use the entire money to consume alcohol. In the event such instances are brough to my notice, I have taken steps to solve the issue by taking it to the respective Grama Sevaka official.
While I am currently the head of Joseph Pararajasingam Organisation, I also work with other organisations including, Surya Women’s Organisation, Vizhuthugal, and Ezhuvaazhvu Organisation. I also work with the Eastern Development Forum to understand the status of families headed by women who have lost their livelihoods in the East, and provide them with the necessary assistance. I have undergone developmental trainings on various aspects after joining a village-level network of women with whom I have been working for the past four years. In 2018, I was recognised as the best female political leader by the said organisation, and was awarded with a certificate for the same. I wish to expand my activities to provincial level without restricting myself to the region. I have also taken part in several protests organised at the national-level.
I was able to connect with Tissa Vitharana and Vasudeva Nanayakkara during the Provincial Council election period in 2013. Thereby, I was able to contest the election on behalf of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP). I contested the election at a time when the people in Batticaloa was not familiar with the party. Currently, I am a key member of the Women’s Wing of the Ilanka Thamil Arasu Katchi. However, it was Sama Samaja Party which introduced me to politics. I left the party following its decision to continue its journey by joining the government. My loyalty towards my community and my reluctance to join the Rajapaksa government, which was the reason behind the destruction of my community, was another reason for me to leave the party.
As a female politician, there have been many instances where I dissatisfied when working with male politicians. There are males who attempt to oppress us whenever we try to initiate certain projects. We are pushed towards situations where we serve the people amidst these struggles. My aim is to contest the upcoming provincial council election, regardless of the challenges I face.
As far as progress in our political journey is concerned, money is the main challenge. Politicians who have the money, indulge in their politics with the help of their money and alcohol. During the last election, they had lodged a complaint claiming that there was alcohol in my home. But the police could not find anything when they inspected my house.
They post false and slanderous posts on social media platforms during election campaigns. We are forced to be involved in political campaign activities while facing several threats and obstacles. Even recently, they had criticised us in a degrading manner. I have faced many a humiliation in my political journey. There have been times when their actions have even triggered the thought of taking my own life.
During my political journey, I have been awarded two awards, namely, ‘Best Social Activist’, and ‘Iron Lady’. I faced many challenges pertaining to the nomination list at the local government elections in 2018. Villagers had to be called together and a polling had to be held for me to contest on behalf of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). This resulted in a tense situation among the people. However, I was eventually selected as a candidate. All political activities are carried out through the power of money and individuals. After many a humiliation and resistance, I eventually contested the elections on behalf of the United National Party (UNP). Subsequently, the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi invited me to join the party having seen the challenges I had faced and how I had overcome them successfully.
There is a situation which is prevalent in councils, where women are looked at in a mocking manner as they are elected to the council based on political proportional system. Even when allocating funds, money is not allocated for women. All activities are centered around men, and that is a matter of great concern. All women should unite and fight to increase representation of women. Appropriate actions should be taken accordingly.
Trainings provided by OneText on managing and handle politics were very helpful. We were able to gain many experiences with the help of these training programmes. There are many instances where women are attacked. There have been several such incidents at the Koralaipatru Pradeshiya Sabha. This is a matter of concern. My humble request from all the voluntary organisations is to provide more trainings on issues pertaining to women’s safety, environmental protection, women and child issues, and languages. These types of trainings will definitely guide them on the right path.
Many of those who are with me wish to contest the local government elections in the future. As far as the party is concerned, not nominating women candidates would result in a drop in its voter base. The party must allocate seats for women, including me. I expect to gain the support of the people for this purpose. On the national-level, I am also working towards creating an opportunity for me to contest the General Election. I hope that the party would take the necessary steps in this regard, provided that male chauvinism does not dominate the process. My position is that women’s involvement must be increased in all aspects of politics. Therefore, I have taken several steps regarding the same. All parties must realise the importance of increasing women’s representation in politics. They must work without any hatred towards women. I have also advised women who represent other political parties. In the same manner, they too should help each other by providing advise motivation.
Money and male dominance are the two main challenges women face in politics. However, there are a few who believe that women who are in higher positions should be included in the political mainstream. But the bigger challenge is the mindset of those who believe that women in the grassroot level should not be given any opportunity. Women who work with the community must be given a proper place in politics. They must take great effort to overcome these challenges. The problems of the people and the solutions to these problems must be reached through the people. My intention is to remain in politics for the entire society and to work towards solving all problems faced by women. People who face numerous problems and troubles should be relieved completely, and their problems must be solved. The ultimate goal of my political journey is to empower the weakened society.
This was prepared as part of the Female Councillor’s Capacity Development Project of One Text – with the permission of the councillor to publish the document.