In celebration of International Women’s Day 2019, the Women and Media Collective (WMC) together with the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) organised an event to be aired on radio, which featured a panel discussion along with musical performances by popular local female artists.
Under the theme “the role of women leaders for an ethical political culture and the responsibility of the media in Sri Lanka” the discussion consisted of speakers Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, Dr. Dharmakeerthi Sri Ranjan, Dr. Praba Manorathna, Dr. Sepali Kottegoda, Sanjeevani Rupasinghe and Kumudini Samuel. This discussion was supported with music by artist Pradeepa Dharmadasa and several others.
During the panel discussion Dr. Praba Manorathna, University of Kelaniya, opened the floor by identifying what women’s political leadership means. She drew on the framework for women’s leadership and highlighted the importance of involving the media in this process, sighting them as an ally in the framing of the framework. Emphasising on the enactment of the 25% quota for women in Local Government last year she stated that the women’s movement should make known to the public of this historic achievement.
Kumuduni Samuel of WMC brought the audience attention to the history of the women’s movement and the women’s franchise struggle. “I would like to talk about the responsibilities of the voters. What does politics mean to us? We do have an understanding of politics within ourselves and within our daily lives” she said. She traced back to the recent political turmoil in the country and how it has steered the country’s political culture. Our right to vote should be upheld to maintain democracy in the country she said.
Meanwhile Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, University of Colombo, mentioned the necessity of defining the participation of women in politics in this discourse. She reiterated that the stereotypes have already been created for women in politics. “There is a difference between women’s politics and mainstream politics. There is also a sense of dismay when talking about the current political situation due to the various types of corruption and fraud. A political and leadership framework for our leaders should be brought in. There are certain standards for women leaders but these same standards don’t apply to men” she said.
Dr. Dharmakeerthi Sri Ranjan of Sri Jayawardenepura University, spoke of women’s liberation within the communist and liberal theories and that all such theories boils down to humanity regardless of religion. “If this is applied to women then there would be no such issue to women. If we were to deconstruct all the factors then women would be able to move forward.” he said. Dr. Sri Ranjan went on to talk about the family unit and how it is carried forward by the woman and if we need to change society it should start from there. The work women do is within the family itself and thus her work is generally two folds. “So then what would happen to her education, her work and then her free time from work? as all these need to be considered” he added.
Talking about leadership and media Sanjeevani Rupasinghe, University of Kelaniya, brought forward the concepts on equality and equity. “We see that most often things are equal but not equitable and this is what we want to take to the parliament” she said. Referring to the media Rupasinghe notes that reporting of news etc. is always carried out within a patriarchal framework. “Through our research we have analysed the news and understood that the media is reporting from a patriarchal angle. We have understood that the media has become a business and there needs to be an entertainment factor. Even when it comes to advertisements it’s been created through patriarchal notions” she added.
The last speaker of the panel Dr. Sepali Kottegoda of WMC highlighted the family and the woman’s role within the family. According to her the family unit has different connotations and this is prevalent across countries. Dr. Kottegoda says that relationships have different notions and although we talk about the woman and her role in her family we don’t talk about her taking on leadership. Thus women are being pushed into a framework. “Both have responsibilities within the family unit and until the responsibility of work is turned around we won’t be able to move forward” she said.
This special women’s day programme was recorded on the 6th of March at the SLBC studio and will be aired on SLBC Sinhala Service on the 8th of March at 10 AM. The programme producer of SLBC was Ashoka Balasooriya.