Salute to women on International Women’s Day


“Woman, in your laughter you have the music of the fountain of life.” — Tagore

All smiles after the welcome dance students. Killinochchi, Sri Lanka. They told me their names, which are in a book in Lanka but I remember the girlish giggles, the questions, and their interest in the camera. 21 July,2010. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

As International Women’s Day approached, I mused about what it has to been to be a woman born to the 20th century, now coping with living in the 21st century.  Briefly: Difficult but it’s been a good ride for me!

A mother, runs a smll shop to earn a living. Killinochchi, Sri Lanka. She showed me the little corner shop she runs, with the support of her parents. No mention was made of the absent father of the bonny child. No questions were asked, the pain was visible in the eyes. 21 July, 2010. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

But what about the others — As I looked back at the women I have photographed I see mine has not been at all difficult compared to many of these women.  Not that I had it all easy – yet we belong to the privileged few of the world.

Flower seller Sabrina. Another lass that followed me around, even offering free a rose for me. Great sales tactic. I probably paid her for that one free rose what it would have cost me to buy the whole bucket! 16 December, 2011. Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

I see them daily here mothers with young children, the old and the sick but the central figure is the woman. They soldier on — working as labourers on the road side, or like Sabrina trying to eke a living in a harsh and a difficult world.

He was one time a radio announcer at Sri Lanka Broadcasting Company SLBC. He spoke in fluent Sinhala about his days as an announcer. The wife's whole day revolves around caring for him tenderly. His pension is not enough to get him the nourishment he needs, she says. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

For many of the women I had the pleasure of meeting and the few I photographed in Killinochchi shown here, International Women’s day will not mean much.  Unless, of course out there in the North someone is cheering them and celebrating the lives of these courageous women. My notes are in Lanka, and I have forgotten the names, but the memories are still fresh, the lilting voices still surface as I look at the images.

With unshed tears in her eyes, a young girl particpates at a community meeting. Killinochchi, Sri Lanka. 21 July, 2010. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

For most of them it will be another day, another challenge. Another possible problem. Another lurking threat. Another confusing question. Another worrying drawback. The trauma of the war years is enough reason to feel daunted or depressed. Their problems were as plentiful as the grains of sand upon the shore of their sea of sorrow. But they found time to smile, hold back their tears, and accept me with smiles.

A recently Resettled Woman in Killinochchi, Sri Lanka. She followed me till I took the photo and when I showed it to her, she peered in to the digital camera said "Once I was considered a beauty in my community." She still is, I assured her but it is a beauty that is deeper -- not the bandbox image of Bollywood or Hollywood. 21 July 2012. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

I had hoped I would go back to see them in Killinochchi, but that opportunity has not come. it was an unforgettable interlude. I hope their lives have improved in the intervening years.

This blog is a salute to the courage of women – both in Killinochchi and Dhaka.

Don't you have earrings? she asked the little boy, on the fringe of the community meeting, showing off her earrings and bangles. Thank heaven for little girls!. 21 July Killinochchi, Sri Lanka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

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One thought on “Salute to women on International Women’s Day

  1. I’m so glad you honored the women of Killinocchi who have never had an easy life but are attempting to do as much as they can with very little for their children. They are not forgotten, thanks to you.

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