Editor's Choice

Marginalized women in Social Revivification: Why do their stories matter?

3 mins read

The following article is based on ideas shared during the recent residential workshop jointly organized by the Sri Lanka College of Journalism, the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, and Civil Society organizations

Marginalized women such as sex workers, single parents, and widows are among the most vulnerable groups in society, often facing discrimination, social exclusion, and economic hardships. Their stories are essential for social revivification, as they highlight the structural inequalities that exist in society and expose the systemic issues that need to be addressed. Why the life stories of marginalized women are important, why the media needs to respond to their plight, and how the Sri Lankan law enforcement agencies’ responses show a lack of maturity and a disregard for fundamental human values.

The stories of marginalized women matter because they provide insight into the complex issues that these women face on a daily basis. These women often live on the fringes of society, facing multiple forms of discrimination and exclusion. By sharing their stories, we can better understand the root causes of their marginalization and work towards creating a more inclusive and equitable society.

Moreover, marginalized women often have unique perspectives on social issues that are not represented in mainstream discourse. By giving these women a platform to share their experiences, we can broaden our understanding of social problems and generate new solutions that are more responsive to the needs of marginalized communities.

The media has a critical role to play in amplifying the voices of marginalized women and shedding light on the issues they face. It is essential for the press to report on these stories with sensitivity, respect, and accuracy, and to avoid perpetuating harmful stereotypes and stigmatizing language. They must avoid sensationalizing these stories or perpetuating harmful stereotypes that further stigmatize marginalized women. Instead, the media must work towards amplifying the voices of these women and exposing the systemic issues that contribute to their marginalization.

Moreover, the media needs to take an active role in challenging the systems of power that contribute to the marginalization of these women. This includes holding those in positions of authority accountable for their actions and advocating for policies that promote social and economic justice.

The responses of the Sri Lankan law enforcement agencies along with selected “media outfits” in planting acts to raid certain places such as Spas demonstrate a lack of maturity and a disregard not only for professional integrity but fundamental human ethics. These actions not only violate the rights of sex workers but also perpetuate harmful stereotypes and stigmatize marginalized women. The actions of those who are working in these agencies also highlight the need for greater accountability and transparency in law enforcement. It is essential for authorities to respect the rights of all individuals, regardless of their social or economic status, and to uphold the rule of law in a fair and just manner.

One of the cases discussed during the event is a stark example of the crisis that exists in our society, particularly in the behaviour of the judiciary towards marginalized women. The actions of the police, in this case, were not only unconstitutional but also violated the rights of the sex worker in question. Moreover, the judge’s response to her statement was insensitive and demonstrated a lack of understanding of the systemic issues that contribute to the marginalization of women in society.

A woman was apprehended by the police and brought to court on charges of engaging in “adulterous behaviours” in a Colombo suburb. However, she denied the accusation and boldly stated before the judge, “I am unaware that my private parts are state property and not my own.” Moved by her defence, the judge had no choice but to dismiss the case and clear the woman of all charges. It is in situations like these that real-life storytellers have a critical role to play. It is their responsibility to use their platform to raise awareness of the injustices faced by marginalized women and to advocate for their rights. By sharing their stories, these women can inspire others to take action and work towards creating a more just and equitable society.

The real-life stories of marginalized women are critical for social revivification. These stories help us to understand the structural inequalities that exist in society and expose the systemic issues that need to be addressed. It is the responsibility of real-life storytellers to use their platform to raise awareness of these issues and advocate for the rights of marginalized women. Moreover, it is our individual responsibility that plays a critical role in promoting social and economic justice for all individuals, regardless of their social or economic status. This involves building a constructive approach to discussing and sharing real-life stories with sensitivity and respect and advocating for policies that support marginalized communities. That is where the existence of the communal currency of humanity ensures. As Vera Nazarian, a known author, says, “the world is shaped by two things: stories told and the memories they leave behind.”  Stories have a powerful impact on shaping our understanding of the world and can help to create a more just and equitable society. Therefore, it is crucial to use each of our platforms to amplify the voices of those who have been historically marginalized and promote narratives that uplift diverse perspectives.

Click here to read our previous essay on the same issue

Why Nepal Denied Entry to CIA Chief?

1 min read

In a rare move, the Nepal government last week withheld permission for a visit to the country by CIA Director William J Burns, ostensibly on the grounds that the timing of the trip was “not so conducive”.

It is learnt Burns returned home from Sri Lanka, the first leg of his South Asia trip, after the Nepal government conveyed to the US Embassy in Kathmandu that given the political developments, including the impending Presidential election, permission for the visit was being withheld.

The decision was conveyed after Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda informally consulted some senior Cabinet colleagues including Deputy Prime Ministers and senior bureaucrats from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

According to information provided to the Nepal government, Burns was to fly from Sri Lanka in a special C-17 Globemaster III along with several officials on February 15 for an 18-hour stay in Kathmandu.

Another two aircraft with some vehicles and “unspecified equipment” meant for the US Embassy were also being brought – this, it is learnt, was notified to the host government.

Visits by top officials of external intelligence agencies, mainly from neighbours India and China, formally or informally, are not very uncommon.

In October 2020, Samant Goel, chief of India’s R&AW, met K P Oli, the then Prime Minister. Details of the discussion were never made public. Oli’s opponents still use that meeting as a political stick to target him.

A senior minister, among those consulted by Prachanda on the proposed trip by the CIA chief, said a visit at such short notice would create a dangerous precedent, and the Prime Minister decided to go “along with our view”.

But some like Keshav Prasad Bhattarai, an expert on security matters and international affairs, think that blocking Burns may prove to be a “blunder”.

High-level visits from the US are now routine but have caused heartburns in China which fears that enhanced US activities in Nepal are part of a destabilisation strategy targeting Beijing.

China openly opposed Nepal Parliament’s ratification of the Millenium Challenge Corporation Compact, a $500-million grant from the US, in February last year. The US also wants Nepal to play a larger role in Indo-Pacific strategy.

Last week, Prime Minister Prachanda said Nepal ratified the MCC since it was a developmental project, and “we did not allow them to come with weapons”.

© The Indian Express (P) Ltd

2023- A Year to Revive the Ancient Wisdom of Sages?

4 mins read

Victory comes from finding opportunities in problems. Sun Tzu…The Art Of War

If 2022 was the year in which we misbehaved, 2023 must surely be the year we dust the tomes of past wisdom and seek some relevance and intelligence in our lives. The year past: of folly at war and talk of the use of nuclear weapons; threats of fire and fury; acts leading to economic dominance without any forethought or perception of consequences; pyrrhic victory by violent suppression of protests, can all be subject to cautious reflection and reference to the words of sages of the past.

In the context of the most serious situation in Ukraine, one is reminded of the words of Sun Tzu  (771-256 BC) a Chinese sage, philosopher and strategist who specialized in military wisdom and is credited as the author of The Art of War – a lasting repository of military strategy for winning a war – which is now considered not only influential in military warfare but also used as a manual for corporate competitive strategy.  Sun Tzu said: “ the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting; in the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity; victory is reserved for those who are willing to pay its price; victory comes from finding opportunities in problems”. Sun Tzu also said: “if fighting is sure to result in victory, then you must fight, even though the ruler forbid it; if fighting will not result in victory, then you must not fight even at the ruler’s bidding… he will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight… if you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles”.

We are still not out of the pandemic although there are signs of its abating. Sun Tzu in his Art of War posits “one must know oneself as much as one knows one’s enemy”. The problem is that, as Albert Camus reflects in his novel The Plague, we do not seem to know ourselves and our vulnerabilities and choose to ignore red flags not only in the face of epidemics and disease but also when confronted with other existential threats. Politically, grave and ominous threats that portend danger to the global community are ignored as minor irritations that will go away. Covid -19 taught us that we need determination, self-reliance and optimism in the face of hardship. We have to believe despite all the evidence to the contrary, that we could restore a sense of community to a world torn by conflict and that despite all personal tragedy, we have a sense of control over our own destiny.

Most importantly, with the entropic perturbations of 2022 – be it geo-political; economic; or social and communal – individually and collectively we have to get a better handle on our “reason for being” or the sense of direction, purpose, and dignity in our lives. Firstly, we must teach ourselves collective humility. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the bestselling author of The Black Swan, in his book Antifragile introduces us to the intriguing and well-reasoned concept called “Antifragile” – that any system which depends on predictability and presumption is fragile – and that “some things benefit from shocks and they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder and stressors”. According to Taleb black swans (which as we all know are a rarity) are large-scale unpredictable and irregular events which can either devastate those that are fragile and dependent on certain rigid stability or energize risk-takers and flexible persons into action.

Secondly, we must establish a structured and logically reasoned way to find our “reason for being” whether in the context of our personal lives or corporate existence and survival. For this, we have to seek the wisdom of Japan.  Often, we spent our time trying to climb the ladder of success. There is a Venn diagram – created by British entrepreneur Marc Winn in 2014 with four circles,  each with a statement: what you love; what the world needs; what you are good at?; and what you can be paid for? At the point where these four circles all intersect is the Japanese word Ikigai which stands for “reason for being”. Ikigai is similar to the French term “raison d’etre”.

Jeffrey Gaines, writing in 2020 said: “The concept of Ikigai is said to have evolved from the basic health and wellness principles of traditional Japanese medicine. This medical tradition holds that physical well-being is affected by one’s mental–emotional health and sense of purpose in life. Japanese psychologist Michiko Kumano (2017) has said that Ikigai is a state of well-being that arises from devotion to activities one enjoys, which also brings a sense of fulfilment. Michiko further distinguishes Ikigai from transitory pleasure (hedonic, in the ancient Greek sense) and aligns it with eudaimonia – the ancient Greek sense of a life well lived, leading to the highest and most lasting form of happiness”.

In 2023 we must seek the fulfilment that Ikigai represents, whether we are political leaders or corporate employees; parents or progeny; professors or students; doctors or patients. Leon Ho says: “having a sense of purpose is a fool-proof way to a fully satisfactory life. It leads to ease in prioritization, strengthens morals and values, aligns all your life goals, and helps you stay focused. The clarity in life is only possible if you have your sense of purpose sorted”.

In 2023 we must be more aware of Sun Tzu’s teachings of knowing our limitations; not being impulsive in taking decisions; not overestimating or underestimating the serious business of living. At the same time, we have to be non-traditional, lateral thinkers who take existing usage and change the way things are. We have to see through the obvious and question the vertical thinking of traditional intelligence.  We have to upend conventional wisdom and predictability. In 2023, self-interest – both collectively and individually  – will keep increasing; fear will spread even further than at the present time.

There is no better time than now to follow the strategy of Sun Tzu and the wisdom of Ikigai.