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Women trapped in microfinance debt flay govt. for not keeping its pledge to liberate them



Woman holding a placard against microfinance companies

The government, which came to power, pledging to abolish all microfinance debt had failed to keep its promise, the Collective of Women Affected by Microfinance (CWAM) said in a press release.

CWAM said that the government had also failed to make an effective intervention to help women affected by a microfinance crisis. “In a context where standards of living of all people affected by microfinance have been deteriorating, the Collective of Women Affected by Microfinance called for a Satyagraha on 08 March 2021, to raise public awareness of the gravity of the problem and to caution the larger society of new dangers to come. Again, the government failed to respond to the demands of the Collective during the Satyagraha which lasted for 55 days in front of the State Monument in Hingurakgoda, Polonnaruwa. As the national collective of women affected by microfinance, we convey our displeasure and opposition to the government for safeguarding the microfinance companies responsible for our financial catastrophe while misleading women and all people affected by the microfinance crisis,” they said.

CWAM says that all governments have enabled the finance companies to exploit the poor, especially women, instead of addressing their problems through a national economic development plan.

“Unpayable debt dumped on the women and their families bear witness to the failure of the government policy. We have been raising consciousness on the nexus between our livelihoods, suicides, dispossession, displacement, domestic violence, family disputes and the problem of over-indebtedness for over half a decade since 2017. We have communicated to the government, the Central Bank, the Ministry of Finance, key political leaders in the government as well as the public repeatedly on this matter. However, the political leadership, as well as the policymakers, appear to be deaf and blind as they believe that new loan schemes would solve the current microfinance crisis. They have discarded our lived experiences, confirmation of the failure of debt-driven entrepreneurship and self-employment. We will not fall from the frying pan to the fire by following the failed government policy of debt-driven entrepreneurship and self-employment.

“Loss of income and increase in cost-of-living triggered by the economic crisis that the country is facing as well as the crisis in agriculture at present, have precluded the ability of indebted women to pay back their debt.

Concerns arising from the current context:

1. Persistent collection of debt drives women to danger

a. Microfinance borrowers engaged in livelihoods related to agriculture, fisheries and the informal economy do not enjoy guaranteed wages or retirement benefits. Hence, they are more susceptible to climate change, economic instability, sickness, and accidents. COVID-19 pandemic illustrates many incidents where women were forced into more hazardous forms of debt as they fail to meet debt repayment owing to the collapse of their regular sources of income.

b. Women borrowers of microfinance record incidents of losing their savings, household

goods, gold, and land in the process of debt repayment.

c. Women often succumbed to domestic violence arising from household disputes as they prioritize debt repayment over other household expenses related to food, education, and health care.

d. A 2018 report by the Independent Expert on Foreign Debt and Human Rights to the UN Human Rights Council Juan Pablo Bohoslavski documented that 2.4 million out of the 2.8 million ensnared in the microfinance debt trap were women.

e. News reports over the years as well as national suicide records with the Department of Police account for over 200 suicides related to microfinance.

2. Litigation against women failing to repay

a. Finance companies and microfinance companies have been misusing the judiciary mechanism to coerce women to repay unpayable debt.

b. Some companies are threatening women in remote areas with litigation in courts in Colombo.

c. Most of the borrowers cannot bear lawyers’ fees. Many cannot afford to travel to appear in the courts. As a result, microfinance victims do not get a just hearing or legal representation. Almost all the cases are determined favourably to the finance companies.

3. Permanent financial disenfranchisement

a. Borrowers unable to repay are delisted in the Credit Information Bureau (CRIB) which bar them from accessing other financial sources in the formal financial sector.

b. A majority of the microfinance borrowers listed in the CRIB are excluded from accessing financial concessions provided in line with the COVID-19 pandemic.

c. Denying microfinance borrowers access to formal financial markets directly expose them to precarious forms of finance in the informal market.

4. Pressure to repay debt compels women into anti-social activities.

a. In many villages lack of income-generating opportunities have pushed women into prostitution.

b. Debt burden has negatively affected children’s education and psychological wellbeing of the family.”

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Foreign News

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger dies aged 100




Henry Kissinger at the State Department's 230th anniversary celebrations in 2019

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has died at the age 100.

He served as America’s top diplomat and national security adviser during the Nixon and Ford administrations.

In a statement, Kissinger Associates, a political consulting firm he founded, said the German-born former diplomat died at his home in Connecticut but did not give a cause of death.

During his decades long career, Mr Kissinger played a key, and sometimes controversial, role in US foreign and security policy.

Born in Germany in 1973, Kissinger first came to the US in 1938 when his family fled Nazi Germany. He became a US citizen in 1943 and went on to serve three years in the US Army and later in the Counter Intelligence Corps. After earning bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees, he taught international relations at Harvard.

In 1969, then-President Richard Nixon appointed him National Security Adviser, a position which gave him enormous influence over US foreign policy in two administrations.


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Rupees 1,500 million allocated for ‘Greater Kandy Urban Development Program’ – State Minister for Provincial Councils and Local Government




State Minister for Provincial Council and Local Government  Janaka Wakkambura participating in a Press Briefing held at the Presidential Media Centre (PMC) on Wednesday (29) under the theme ‘Collective Path to a Stable Country’,  announced that President Ranil Wickremesinghe has allocated Rs. 1,500 million for the “Greater Kandy Urban Development Program” in this year’s budget and that part of the allocation would to be utilized to develop the approach roads to Kandy City.

He also announced that the President had allocated  Rs. 1,000 million to develop tourism by enhancing facilities through the involvement of local government bodies.

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DMT unable to print nearly one million driving licences for want of blank cards



Racketeers thrive on illegal printing of DLs

By Shiran Ranasinghe

The Department of Motor Traffic was unable to print about 900,000 driving licences due for want of blank plastic cards, Commissioner General of the Department of Motor Traffic Nishantha Weerasinghe told The Island.

He said his Department was doing its best to solve the problem, which could be sorted out in six months or so.

A senior official on condition of anonymity said the Department now printed about 200 driving licences for those who were going abroad or engaged in essential services.

However, some racketeers were printing about 700 licences illegally, he said.

Rs 5,000 each was charged for issuing illegally printed licences, the official said.

Commenting on the allegations, the Commissioner General of the Department of Motor Traffic said he will investigate the matter if he receives a complaint officially.

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