Ananthi Sasitharan was appointed Northern Provincial Minister of Women’s Affairs. She is the only female councillor among the 37 members. Sasitharan, the wife of former LTTE Trincomalee Political Head, Velayutham Sasitharan alias Elilan, in an interview with the Nation speaks of her plans for women in the North, and their struggles.
Q. You have been appointed the Minister of Women’s Affairs. What do you hope to do through this new responsibility given to you?
The subjects and policies of the ministry are still being drafted. They would be complete soon. However, there are many issues faced by the women in the North. Therefore, I see this as an opportunity for me to help the women who have undergone many hardships over the years.
First of all, the women in the North face many issues pertaining to their safety and security. This issue is mostly faced by single women.
I intend to push for strengthening of laws in order to protect these women. There should be a framework for women to come out and talk about their issues. They need to feel secure even when they complain to the authorities.
I will look into such issues. Q. Would you be focusing on educating women and young girls pertaining to their safety?
Yes. We need to create awareness among women on the possible threats and issues that they could face. We can reduce incidents by being aware.
Awareness is important, especially among the women in rural villages. What I plan to do is to have a village-based awareness programme, where we go to each village to conduct awareness programmes among women.
As I said before, women who are single continue to face harassment at homes and workplaces. There are people who use their vulnerability for their advantage. These women have no help and therefore are compelled to face them every day. This has to stop.
We as responsible citizens have the duty to stop this.
Q. What about awareness among men?
Absolutely. We intend to include men in this effort too. It will work in two ways. One would be that offenders would realize their mistakes and change. On the other hand, males who are fathers, husbands, or even guardians would take this issue more seriously to protect and strengthen women at their households and workplaces. Q. In addition, there are also growing concerns of drug and alcohol addiction. Would you look into that?
That has become a menace. Many youngsters have become addicted to drugs and alcohol, which is not good for women. Usage of drugs and alcohol prompt the youth towards bad activities and might harm women.
We hope to give this issue priority in our programmes through my ministry.
Q. You are one woman among men in the NPC. Do you think women are encouraged to actively engage in politics in the North?
Of course. I was elected by the people. The people have no problem in making me a representative. Therefore, there is nothing to stop women from coming into active politics.
Q. But are women reluctant to engage in active politics in the North?
Yes. That is true. We need more women to enter politics so that women will be adequately represented. They do not have to be apprehensive.
Q. Would you encourage other women to come forward and join politics?
Yes. I definitely will. The awareness programme which I mentioned earlier would also include the importance of women representation in politics. It would help women empowerment if more women join mainstream politics.
Q. There are claims that you were appointed minister since you backed the Chief Minister during the turmoil. Is it true?
That is absolutely not true. In my case, I was given the post because I had obtained the highest number of votes, around 88,000, after the Chief Minister. In addition, I am the only woman in the council. These are the factors that I think made him to give me the post.