Monday, June 23, 2008

40th Anniversary Celebration of Caritas Sri Lanka at SETIK, Kandy

To mark the 40th anniversary of Caritas Sri Lanka Sedec the Justice Peace Human Development Human Rights Secretariat Setik Kandy organized a days’ programme on the 16th June 2008 with its community leaders, beneficiaries, grass-root level committees and school children of the central province. The Chief Guests were Rt. Rev. Dr. Vianney Fernando - Bishop of Kandy, Rev. Fr. Damian Fernando - National Director of Caritas Sri Lanka, Ms. Anne Bousquet - Country Representative of CRS organization. To mark this occasion the animation unit of Setik Kandy organized a trade exhibition which comprised of nearly 20 stalls of the produce of the activities of people and an exhibition and a sale of the 10 sewing centres of Setik, to help the rural people in the Parishes. Prior to this event an art exhibition was conducted among the school children on the following themes. “Let us eradicate child labour,” “Tomorrow’s Sri Lanka”, “Let us protect our resources,” “The migrated mother”. The five houses that were constructed for five poor families were handed over to them on this same occasion. With the help of the CRS organization 18 line rooms were renovated in the district of Matale. In the same four estates 218 toilets were constructed and water facilities were provided for those living in them. This project was completed and the constructions were handed over to the beneficiaries officially by Ms. Anne - the Country Representative of CRS organization.

SETIK Caritas Kandy is working on this problems related to migrants for over five years now. During these five years the number of complaints we received were many. Even though we were able to help these victims’ in different ways still we believe as a country as the Authorities there should do a lot to safeguard our migrant workers who are being trafficked in other countries.

Taking into consideration the plight of the Migrant workers who are being trafficked in other countries the SETIK organization prepared and released a docu-drama based on real stories of migrants titled “Arabi Lamayage Gedara” or “The House of the Arabian Child” on the 16th June 2008, to mark the 40th anniversary of SEDEC- Caritas Sri Lanka. This one episode tele-drama speaks of a family in Sri Lanka in which the mother migrates to work as a domestic worker and her plight in the working place as well as the daughter who was back at home and her story.

On this same occasion we launched the book “The Travails of Sri Lankan Migrants’ it is a study report done by Rev. Fr. George Sigamoney with the Migrants unit of SETIK Caritas Kandy. This book implies the reality the very painful journey of our own sisters who face the battle of life. The dignity and image of a woman and a mother is esteemed in our Eastern society. But sad to say, this beautiful image is disfigured in the very fact of migration into misoriented social situations that inflict deep inhuman harassments and oppressions. The result is our women are treated very shabbily as slaves.

The deportation of returnees empty handed, stories of women displaced in foreign countries, abandoned by agents, driven away by employers or escaping from employers to save their lives, is the cry we hear, on which we need to focus our attention.

As the reality and consequences are not known by these poor women and mothers, they automatically become the prey and the victims, to all these harassments and these women become burdens to their families and to our society.

The highest remittance of foreign exchange flows to our country, through the hard labour of these women workers according to the recent statistics released by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka the remittances was Rs. 160,502 million. Isn’t it our responsibility and obligation to protect the rights of these women and give them due respect and dignity?

Our book will help to discover the plight of migrant workers. Asian women crying out to us to take necessary action right now. Our commitment and our attitudes can make a difference. This book will open our eyes to the reality of Sri Lankan Migrant women’s’ plight.


Marius Wanders said...

We have recently received a copy of the report entitled 'The Travails of Sri Lankan Migrants' by Rev. Fr. George Sigamoney of SETIK and a copy of the DVD with the docu-drama 'The House of the Arabian Child', produced by SETIK.

Both are gripping and moving documents describing the terrible ordeals that too many women from Sri Lanka are exposed to when they leave their homes and families in a desperate attempt to improve the living conditions of their families by accepting sometimes very attractive looking offers for employment as a domestic worker in the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia or countries in the Middle East.

Lurking behind those apparently attractive offers are the harsh realities of psychological, physical and/or sexual abuse to which these women are too often exposed once they have arrived in their country of destination, the consistent denial of their basic human rights and the consistent violation of their God-give human dignity and the consistent relative impunity of their domstic employers who subject these women to this modern kind of slavery and to this kind of abuse.

SETIK is totally committed and tirelessly devoted to assisting women who have fallen victim to these inhumane and criminal abuses, to preventing more victims by raising public awareness among the Sri Lankan population about these practices and to demanding adequate political and judicial cooperation between governments and authorities in Sri Lanka and in the states where these Sri Lankan migrant women workers are thus abused, deceived and often criminalised.

As the chairman of the steering group of COATNET, a global network of Christian organisations against human trafficking, I am proud and privileged to count Fr. George Sigamoney, Director of SETIK, among the active members of this global network that is committed to combat and eradicate the practice of human trafficking in accordance with the commitment laid down by the Caritas Internationalis Confederation under the title ' Created in the image of God... Treated like slaves!' The COATNET network is a rapidly growing partnership alliance of well over 50 Christian organisations in 5 continents, working together transnationally to combat this transnational crime. COATNET operates under the legal supervision of Caritas Europa and is one of the primary instruments of the Caritas Internationalis Confederation to implement its commitment to combat human trafficking.

We wish to recommend SETIK to all citizens, organisations and authorities or governments of good will as an organisation that needs to be praised for and supported in its strong commitment in the global fight against human trafficking. The untold numbers of women from Sri Lanka suffering the abuse and denial of human rights that are so vividly depicted in the two recent publications by SETIK deserve no less.

Brussels (Belgium), 1st August 2008

Marius Wanders
Secretary General of Caritas Europa
Chairman of the steering group of COATNET.

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