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UN Women’s project boosts community role of females here

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Lankan women carry the main burden of household work, and therefore they have knowledge and influence that could be channeled to improve community waste management, which is not only harming health and the environment but also causing disputes between different communities, says Asia and the Pacific branch of the UN Women.

The government’s Time-Use Survey of 2017 found that women spend 27.6 per cent more time than men doing housework each day. Yet while women are the ones handling all the household waste, they barely have a voice when it comes to deciding how to manage waste in the larger community.

In Sri Lanka, the local government councils have the primary responsibility for collecting and disposing of waste within their areas. But historically, very few women have held seats on these bodies because of institutional and structural barriers, and gender stereotypes such as that politics is unsuitable for women or that women should just stay at home.

Before the last local elections, in 2018, women held only 1.9 per cent of these seats. A new 25 percent quota for female representation boosted that number, though today, women still hold only 23.7 per cent of seats.

To address the problem of women’s representation and environmental management, UN Women, United Nations Office for Project Services, and Chrysalis, a local non-governmental organisation, are jointly implementing a project called Promoting Women’s Engagement in Effective Solid Waste Management. The 2020-2021 project, funded by the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund, is expected to directly benefit about 4,000 people in Puttalam and Mannar districts along the country’s western coast. Most people in these districts work in fisheries and in agriculture.

“Through this project, we are working with women to ensure their voices are heard and that they are fully involved in making decisions that impact them, their households and communities,” said Ramaaya Salgado, Country Focal Point at UN Women Sri Lanka. “Solid waste management was identified as the main community issue that this project addresses, but we are building their capacities so that this whole-of-community approach can be replicated in addressing other conflicts and community issues as well.”

Because improper waste disposal harms health, the environment and inter-communal relations, the project brings communities together to develop sustainable solutions for their shared environment — with women at the forefront of that process.

In April 2020, the project organized a series of local-level dialogues in which about 350 elected officials, public officials, women community leaders, members of civil society groups, religious leaders, young people and others in Puttalam and Mannar discussed common issues and solutions to waste management.

UN Women and Chrysalis then gave the dialogue participants training on collective leadership, peace-building and non-violent conflict resolution.

Earlier this month, UN Women organized two town hall meetings that connected local authorities and women community leaders with experts in solid waste management, including environmental and civil engineers, local government officials and environmental activists. The broader aim was to get more women into leadership positions and adopt best practices on solid waste management.

The women participating in the UN Women project include Kaweeda Manohari, 48, a member of the Chilaw Municipal Council in Puttalam, and Dilushani Fernando, a social worker and community leader in Puttalam.

“Recently, I had to be a mediator to a conflict between two parties,” Manohari said. “Since it was fresh in my mind, I was able to use some of the techniques I learned at our training to help the two parties arrive at a compromise and push for a legal solution to their issue.”

Fernando said: “I learned a lot about waste segregation and the economic benefits of upcycling while reducing waste. Now I always think twice before throwing away something. I use it to create something new instead. This is what I hope to teach young children in my community.”



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Vasu defends constituents’ right to differ

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Prez chairs govt. group meeting:

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Water Supply Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara has strongly defended the right of the SLPP (Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna) constituents’ to take up contentious issues in public.

Minister Nanayakkara told SLPP parliamentary group meeting at the President’s House on Sunday night (24) that their right to differ on matters of public interest shouldn’t be questioned.

Nanayakkara said so when Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena and MP Tissa Kuttiarachchi faulted some constituent parties for dissenting views on certain issues.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was present at the meeting chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The meeting lasted for about two hours.

The SLPP held Sunday’s meet in the wake of some constituent parties of the ruling coalition asking for a discussion on the questionable agreement between the government and the US New Fortress Energy Company over the Yugadanavi power plant, etc. Sources said that initially, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa indicated that the issue could be discussed with the Premier but subsequently arrangements were made for the Sunday’s meeting.

The New Fortress recently announced that a definitive agreement had been executed for the external investment in West Coast Power Limited (WCP).

WCP owns the 310 megawatts Yugadanavi Power Plant based in Colombo. The deal is also for the rights to develop a new LNG Terminal off the coast of Colombo. In terms of the agreement, New Fortress will acquire a 40 per cent ownership stake in WCP. The US energy firm plans to build an offshore LNG terminal located off the coast of Colombo.

Minister Nanayakkara has said it is not unusual for members of a coalition to hold different views depending on the issues as they also represent the interests of the public.

Nanayakkara has pointed out how the left parties remained with the UPFA though they didn’t agree with the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s decision to enact the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. Parliament passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution with a two-thirds majority on 08 Sept. 2010, enabling the President to seek a third term among other things.

The SLPP constituents have differed with the government on several issues such as fuel price increases announced by Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila on 12 June as well as the abortive bid to transfer 49 percent of shares of the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo port to India and Japan.

National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa spearheaded the constituents’ campaign. He sought an explanation particularly as regards Cabinet approval for the controversial energy deal with the US firm, without a discussion among ministers.

NFF sources told The Island that their leader felt the urgent need to take up the matter to prevent further deterioration of relations among the coalition members.

Several parties including government ally the Jathika Sanvidhana Ekamuthuwa moved the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, respectively against the secretive energy deal with the US firm.

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‘Those who hesitate to get vaccinated pose a threat to others’

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Deputy Director General of Health Services, Dr. Hemantha Herath said yesterday a significant number of people had not received the Covid-19 vaccine, and posed a threat to society.

“No matter what your age category is, you will be at a higher risk of being infected and spreading it to others. So please get vaccinated,” he urged.

The DDGHS said that a booster shot would be given to people from 01 Nov.

The Health Ministry would carry out the ongoing vaccination drive until everyone got the first two doses, he said.

“However, we won’t keep hundreds of vaccination centres open. Most likely, those who have not got vaccinated will have to go to designated locations to receive the vaccine.”

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School attendance high as parents have faith in teachers – CTU head

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Teachers and principals protested at Colombo Fort yesterday urging the government to rectify their salary anomalies. The protesters marched from the Fort Railway Station towards the Presidential Secretariat but police did not permit them to proceed beyond the Telecom rounadbout. Pic by Nishan S Priyantha

By Rathindra Kuruwita

School attendance was high Despite inter-provincial travel restrictions, Ceylon Teachers Union (CTU) General Secretary, Joseph Stalin said yesterday. “The government announced on 22 October that primary sections of all schools would be reopened on 25 October. Despite the short notice the attendance was high, and this is testament to the faith parents have in teachers,” he said.Primary sections of 9,155 schools recommenced yesterday.

“However, we will only teach. Teachers do a lot of additional work instead of teaching and most people who slander us have no idea about this,” he said.

Deputy Director General of Health Services, Dr. Hemantha Herath urged relevant authorities to provide safe and adequate transport facilities to students. It was vital that those vehicles were ventilated, and social distancing was maintained.

“We urge parents to buy reusable face masks for kids. If your child has any symptoms of COVID such as fever and cold, don’t send him/her to school until you are certain this is not COVID. Teach your child the importance of washing hands, wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. This is the way we can ensure there is no spread in the school system,” Dr. Herath said.

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