I, Ranjithraj Kulagowri, am a resident of Jaffna, in the Northern Province. Even though I entered politics very recently, I have been interested in social work from my younger days. In addition, I have also been interested in sports since my school days. I studied up to my Advanced Levels and had to cut short my high studies halfway due to health complications.
I involved myself in social work with the aim of bringing out to light the injustices faced by women in the society, and that suppression against women must be ended. My social work was not targeted towards politics. It should be noted that I embarked on social work with the intention of revealing the acts of suppression that were carried out against my community in the past.
Seventy-five percent of women in our society are not in a position to reveal their problems. The activists should bring out their problems and also help them find complete solutions.
Women’s livelihood is a big problem. It is important that women are provided with suitable livelihood opportunities, based on their skills and abilities, through which they would develop and improve themselves. At the same time, their safety and security must also be ensured in a proper manner. Providing appropriate protection to these women will also ensure protection and discipline to their children. They are not familiar with legal aspects and other matters since they are used to a village lifestyle. They should be enlightened and their legal rights must be ensured.
Through the social work I have carried out so far, I have come to know that women face such problems. In this context, after it was known that women would be provided with free legal advice, there were a few awareness programs conducted in this regard and a few individuals who intervened helped them to win their rights. The level of success of this program was visible when some women who were separated from their husbands were able to obtain compensation through such assistance.
In addition, steps have also been taken to provide women with joint venture opportunities with the help of women’s associations. In addition, micro finance facilities have also been introduced. They have been able to provide funds to women based on the funds available. Even though our social activities have been largely limited to our region, we have also been able to help those in other districts based on requests made by friends and relatives.
I was not interested in embarking on a journey in politics at first. However, I joined politics for some reason and realized that we could achieve more than half of our needs only through politics. Today I am continuing my political journey as a representative of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP).
As far as the council is concerned, even though there are many parties, all the members are working together as a family. Even though there are debates when proposals are tabled, all the members are in the mindset of reaching a unanimous decision. Some have been involved in attacks during the times of elections. Even though I have faced many challenges at party level, I have been able to mold myself due to these challenges.
During my political journey, I faced the Local Government elections in 2018. I contested the fourth circuit and was elected to the Atchuvely Pradeshiya Sabha, in which I am still a member.
Having observed my social activities, my party had requested me on several occasions to enter politics. However, I did not get the appropriate opportunity to do so. I subsequently had to join the party during the election period. I did not have any problems in being enlisted as a candidate. I did face challenges from members of the opposition during election campaign activities. I contested the election on behalf of the party and was selected to the council based on proportional representation.
So far, I have not been treated differently as I was selected as a member through proportional representation. In addition, all members have been provided with the same amount of fund allocation. The training workshops that were conducted by voluntary organisations helped me to a great extent. I was able to take part in many workshops only after I embarked on my political journey. During these workshops, we were provided with awareness on several aspects such as legal procedures, leadership, and how to tackle challenges faced by women.
The party undertook all the expenses related to my election campaign activities. My own funds were not used for election campaign activities. Even though I was aware of certain aspects regarding the council when I was elected, I was able to learn more after I entered the council. I was able to gain more knowledge on aspects such as activities of the committees and fund allocations through the workshops that were conducted by the voluntary organisations. The eight female members of the council are involved in each of the committees.
We were able to fix light bulbs through the annual budget allocations. In addition, we were also able to renovate the primary school and provide drinking water facilities to the school. We must cultivate unity among the female members of the council.
In this context, I am interested in going to the next level in politics. If I am to go to the next level, I will get the necessary support. The party leadership will also extend its support. The party has held several discussions in this regard. There is a need to develop my community and myself before I embark on national-level politics. I am working towards identifying the skilled individuals and developing them.
Women’s participation in politics must be increased. The 25% quota which is given now should be increased. My request is that it should be increased at least to 40 percent. The representatives in parliament must hold discussions pertaining to this and reach a decision. The society’s level of accepting decisions made by women is still low. There are women who have curbed their activities because of this issue. Their skills and abilities must be brought out to the public.
There are instances where women who are involved in politics are humiliated and their names tarnished. Therefore, they go through depression. Eliminating all acts of suppression against women will allow them to display their abilities to their fullest. In addition, women who come into politics must be able to take decisions which are beyond right and wrong. They must not change their decisions for others.
(THIS WAS PREPARED AS PART OF FEMALE COUNCILLOR’S CAPACITY DEVELOPMENT PROJECT OF ONE TEXT – WITH THE PERMISSION OF THE COUNCILLOR TO PUBLISH THE DOCUMENT)