I, Thayalarajan Paulina Subothini, was born in C level havakachcheri where I currently reside. I am currently a member of the Chavakachcheri Urban Council. In addition, I also initiate welfare activities on a political, for the people.
Living a life with no recognition, and trying to live a respectable life without any help, is a struggle which is unbearable. We had to overcome several challenges such as the pain of poverty, changes that occurred due to the armed struggle, and debt burden. I have five brothers. My younger days were full of poverty. I was forced to stop my education after completing my Ordinary Level and Advanced Level. I was continuously stuck in a situation where I could not continue my education. Even today, I am still sad that I could not pursue my education. My father was a daily wage earner. Therefore, we had to obtain a loan to build a home.
My mother collected ‘seettu’ money with the intention of building a house for us. However, that resulted in our family being burdened with a heavy debt. We were on the verge of selling our house to repay our debt. Therefore, my mother had to leave the country, seeking employment abroad. I was a mother with infants at the time she left. In addition to my children, I had to look after my brothers as well. We faced a lot of struggles to pay our debt. Just as we were raising our heads from the debt burden, we were hit by the war. The war completely changed our lives.
In the year 2000, were forced to leave our homes because of the war. We were in Murikandi for two years. Subsequently when we returned to our own place, we saw that our houses had been destroyed. Now we were burdened with debt and poverty. In addition, we were deprived of our status in society. Subsequently, I joined a women’s organisation and got involved in doing social work.
Our association was able to initiate several projects to assist those who were affected by the war. Our community continues to face several economic and health related problems. The politicians do not care much about the issues faced by women in our community. Even parliamentarians who are at the higher-level of the political structure do not allocate adequate funds for women’s livelihood.
Our community is plagued with social and cultural disorders. It is the women and girls who are the most affected due to these social issues that are within the society. There is a need to safeguard those who are affected due to such social issues. In fact, I have initiated several activities to address these issues as well. It is important that I take timely actions with the assistance of government institutions to safeguard and protect women who are affected. I have worked with the Industrial Development Authority to provide self employment opportunities to ensure their livelihood. I have also taken steps to build houses for women who did not have homes. However, I have still not got the opportunity work beyond the limits of the urban council.
My political entry was an unplanned and unexpected move. I did not have any knowledge about the subject, or any experience in politics. I do not have any political role models either. It was in this context that I got an opportunity to step into politics through the 25% representation for women on behalf of the Ilankai Thamiz Arasu Katchi (ITAK). The Chairperson of the Urban Council is also a woman. Therefore, I am able to continue my political journey without much problems and challenges. Even though I am a Catholic, I did not receive any support from the Catholic members of my community during the election period. However, I continue do whatever I can for the benefit of my community.
During the nomination process, there was an error when registering the name of the Grama Sevaka. Therefore, even though I emerged victorious at the election, I faced problems to enter the council. Therefore, my party intervened and provided a bonus seat through which I entered the council. I am still a member of the council. During the initial days of my political journey, I was scared to speak on political platforms. However, as time progressed, I improved myself.
Even though I emerged victorious in the election, I was only given a bonus seat. Therefore, I face many issues when trying to obtain fund allocations for my people. During the nomination process, my name was chosen at a time when none of my family members were supportive of my move. My party faced many obstacles when trying to identify and choose suitable women candidates.
I have frequently faced problems due to members of other parties during election campaign activities. I must emphasise that I faced threats from such individuals during election campaign activities. Even though I emerged victorious in such a situation, I have obtained the representative membership at the council. However, while individuals who did not take part in campaign activities are announced victorious and are able to commence several initiatives, I face difficulties to act independently and initiate projects for the benefit of the people, despite being victorious in the election, because I was made a member on quota basis. There are occasions when I am not given prior notice of several developmental activities. This is an obstacle for my future political growth.
During election campaign activities, I faced numerous problems as I did not have funds for campaigning. Even though the party provided the posters, I had to spend my own money for other expenses. I pawned the jewellery I had to raise the money I needed. I was able to gain some experience on how to conduct myself during election times thanks to the trainings that I had already received. The guidance provided by voluntary organisations helped me immensely after I was elected to the council. The trainings provided by voluntary organisations were very helpful in aspects such as funds allocation, presenting petitions, and presenting development plans.
During my initial days as a member of the council, I was not aware of anything. I did not have complete knowledge or awareness on the projects and activities. However, it was only after becoming a member that I was able to learn the many aspects regarding the same. When a female member submits a petition at the council, there are those who oppose them based on party differences. There are very few instances where female members oppose proposals tabled by other female members of the council. Since the Chairperson of the council is also a female, it should be noted that there have only been few instances where proposals tabled by female members have been opposed. I should also point out that there are instances where males disrupt speeches made by the female members of the council.
My request is that more trainings be given to enrich the female representation of our society. In addition, linguistic training is absolutely essential. Women who represent councils should also be provided with knowledge on technology. I believe that it would be appropriate if such activities are initiated and carried out by voluntary charity organisations. We did not have knowledge pertaining to media, technology and laws pertaining to local government when we stepped into politics. However, we are in a much better position today because of the trainings that were provided by the voluntary organisations.
Finance is the biggest obstacle for my future in politics. In addition, I am currently in the process of identifying suitable women with the aim of increasing women representation. In the same way, women’s political representation must increase at national level too. Doing away with the regional electoral system will result in the death of the system to nominate women as candidates. Therefore, 25% share for women representation must be sustained.
According to my observation, the main reason that a single Tamil woman was not elected to parliament this time is that there was no network for effective communication between previous women parliamentarians and Tamil female local government members. In addition, their failure to initiate projects for women also played a role in them not getting enough votes from women to be elected to parliament again.
Women must not hesitate to involve in politics. Their fears and inconveniences must be eradicated. The pressure they face in their homes must be reduced. I too faced similar pressures. I request that the status of women be improved, and that those around them support them to be victorious.
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.