We spoke to Christy Shabeena Muthukumar, who works at the Institute of Social Development (ISD), an IFWEA affiliate which is a non-governmental organisation located in Kandy, Sri Lanka. The organisation was established in 1991 by a group of activists who engage in the field of human rights, labour, gender, and advocacy.
The work they are doing is to strengthen the marginalised plantation, rural communities and groups towards sustainable social changes based on democracy, equity, social justice, freedom, and peace while fostering rural community empowerment for a better future. Christy is in the IFWEA Study Circle on C190.
ILO Convention No. 190 (or C190 for short) is the first international treaty to recognise the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment, including gender-based violence and harassment. Fifteen countries have now ratified C190, and many are beginning to adopt implementing legislation. Sri Lanka’s Labor Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva has promised ratification to come.
How long have you been in the IFWEA Study Circle on C190?
For four years. I heard about the Study Circle through IFWEA.
Who else is in your Study Circle?
With our organisation, there are also 10 different trade unions and CSOs.
What are your Study Circle plans for this year (2022)?
Study Circle participants will be asked to launch grassroots level awareness activities on C190 and send letters to the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Women’s Affairs and to other ministers. In addition, a social media unit will be created to make the wider section of working class communities aware of C190. The content of C190 will be updated in the media, as well as small interview clips of workers, with a special attention focused on women workers.
What is your focus regarding working with civil society, political leaders and trade union leaders?
To continuously pressurise them to ratify C190 in Sri Lanka.
How do you feel when you see more countries adopting C190?
It gives us strength to work more to implement C190 legislation in our country.
What do you like about the Study Circle method?
Within our Study Circle we can learn from different participants’ experiences. Also, different countries can share their experiences so we can also learn from their experiences. And we can learn new technologies, too.
And does this fit in with what your organisation does? Are there challenges?
Yes it does fit, although when it comes to the technical side many are not accustomed to this method.
Most of the time we are physically conducting the Study Circle sessions due to a lack of technical knowledge and technical devices.
What is the change that you would like to see this Study Circle achieve?
The Study Circle should build regional networks and international networks. By promoting regional and international networks it should lobby collectively in regional forums like the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), as well as within international forums such the United Nations Economic and Social Council, for example.
What do you particularly enjoy about being in this Study Circle?
Enhancing the focus on C190 and networking with similar organisations.