Sri Lanka – Mohamed Nawsath Irfana Begam
Irfana works with her sending body WODEPT (Women Organization for Development, Equality, Peace and Temperance) in Puttalam, Sri Lanka to empower women through programs to promote gender balance and respect for human rights. In a place where there are many social inequalities, Irfana and her sending body work toward independent and balanced life for the women in her community. Especially for women, the situation in Irfana’ s community is not always easy. They have to struggle with problems, like being dependent on men, sexual violence, or husbands’ flight from family responsibilities.
These social problems affect many things in daily life, like the education and development of children, the empowerment of women, or economical development. Much of the human potential in women is wasted, where it could be used for common good, or to generate household income. Income is important not only for the independence of the women, but also for the education of their children. Irfana’ s sending body WODEPT tries to reduce the suffering caused by gender-discriminative constraints and to give women new opportunities. They are also working to uphold children ’s rights and combat alcohol abuse. To start with, they train the women to protect themselves against violence, understand about human rights and gender balance and teach them how to earn income through agriculture, food processing, fishing and dress making. After the women receive the knowledge, they can apply for small loans to start their own business. On every second Wednesday, the organization pays out new loans and collects money from loans that have come to full term, respectively. In 1995, the organization was founded with about 10 members. Over the next 20 years, many women joined WODEPT and now they have about 50 members, and they are still trying to reach more women. For the most part, women are working in this organization.
Irfana was personally affected by problems which are rooted in gender inequality. Her husband was ruthless and unfaithful, so she decided to get divorced. Fortunately, her father and her organization supported her a lot through this difficult period , which comforted and strengthened her. After her divorce, Irfana has had a great deal of work to do, including taking care of her young son and working at WODEPT. She also had to get along with a small budget, but she can handle everything with the support she gets. On Saturdays, she is observing “QUAZI COURT,” which is a counseling service where women can speak about their feelings and their mental burdens. After some reflection, the women can decide what kind of protection, or assistance, they would like for their rights.
For the future, Irfana prays that they can root out violence from her community and develop an economy and society in which womens’ potentials are appreciated and fully employed. Since these problems also effect the education and development of children, Irfana hopes that they will also get more protection in the future.