In September 1984, the Katunayake Catholic Church was the home of the Da Bindu Collective. Rev. Vivian Fernando, who was dedicated to the service of the church, laid the foundation for the formation of the Da Bindu Collective by listening to the injustices being inflicted on working women in the trade zone.
Not only did legal and medical clinics run for working women who had been abused and injustices, but they also had library facilities, exposure programs, sharing experiences with others, and handing out leaflets on issues related to women. Also, exhibitions on disasters in the trade zone were a common sight near the Katunayake mosque.
It was on these steps that the Da Bindu newspaper was born. It was an opportunity to speak out to the world about the injustices taking place in the trade zone. The Dabindu newspaper also showcased the creative talents of the workers and directed them to other activities that would enhance their skills.
Participate in financial aid organizations, form cooperative committees, stand up against workers ‘injustices, join trade unions, contribute to May Day Women’s Day celebrations, and participate in workshops on women workers’ conferences abroad to develop knowledge and understanding. Being able to take, the Da Bindu Collective learned during this time.
As a member of Da Bindu, Starting Cluster H. I. Samanmalee continues to be a great strength and guide to the organization today. She says the Da Bindu Collective is a social movement that has brought the voices of women workers working in the Katunayake trade zone to the outside world for the past 38 years.
The Da Bindu Collective is a small group of women who began their journey against the various forms of violence and coercion that women workers face, forcing management to do justice to the problems that women workers face daily.
The JR Jayewardane government that came to power in Sri Lanka in 1977 severely trampled on workers’ rights, brought in foreign investors, and made them work for cheap labor. They also undermined the prevailing labor laws in Sri Lanka and especially the guaranteed laws of trade union formation.
One of the consequences of its massacre of the working class, which began with the suppression of the July 1980 strike, was the weakening of the mainstream trade unions that had existed until then. Reflecting on this past, Samanmalee says that the repression launched in the early 1980s laid the foundation for the formation of the Da Bindu Collective.
Opportunities to work with various parties to promote ethnic rights, human rights, and democracy also strengthened the organization later, Samanmalee says.
“By now, the Da Bindu Collective is an organization registered as a trade union. We can therefore more effectively intervene in the issues of workers, especially working women. We are intervening not only in Katunayake and Biyagama but also in the North and East. ” stated Chamila Thushari, Program Officer, Da Bindu Collective.
Chamila Thushari says that while her organization has been contributing to the struggle to improve the living standards of working women for three decades, exploitation is still taking place. “Even during this epidemic, women working in free trade zones like Katunayake were considered as second-class citizens.
We continue to shout against the injustice that is happening. Also, meet the authorities and find solutions. We are working to contribute to the formulation of laws and policies, and to call for international intervention. We do all this for workers’ rights. ” She says.
Jayani has been with the Da Bindu Collective for some time. She says the welfare services provided by the Da Bindu Collective for working women should never be forgotten. “In recent days, we have provided food and sanitation assistance to many working women who have been left destitute.
If we did not do so, some would be very helpless. Says Jayani. She points out that Da Bindu is also playing a major role in preventing problems such as the hygiene of working women in the free trade zone, especially reproductive health. Among this program to promote the knowledge of the working class. It promotes knowledge in various fields.
“This is an ongoing struggle and we have a responsibility to continue to represent the working people in the region,” she said.
“Organizations like Da Bindu came forward against the last bad situation at that time. The police also arrested Vivian Gunawardena who had come to distribute a leaflet near a factory in the early days. ” That is the memory of Brito Fernando, a social activist. “We were the ones who opposed that trend. That means other organizations, including Da Bindu. I remember we forcibly distributed leaflets and took an initial step to eliminating that situation.
I was also arrested that day. When a worker at Star Garment wrote a poem and lost her job, we were able to stage a massive protest. Finally, the worker got her job back. Brito Fernando thus recalls the memory. “At that time there was a card that allowed girls to go to the toilet and limited the frequency. The girls called it the Chu Card. ” The result of these battles was the abolition of the last of such evils.
Congratulations to the Da Bindu Collective who contributed to all these battles, ”said Brito Fernando. But, he points out that workers in the free trade zone must continue to be organized with a progressive goal.
Roshini Weerasinghe is a young woman who came to work in the trade zone from Bandarawela. She says the Da Bindu Collective has the honor of caring for outsiders like her without getting isolate. “The Da Bindu Collective really taught us about our rights and labor laws. Not only that but living safely and with dignity. That is why we love Da Bindu in addition to congratulating them, ”says Roshini.
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