I am pleased to announce the publication in near future of my new book titled Posted in Colombo: A glance at toiling women and Indian Tamils of Sri Lanka (CreateSpace, 2010). Focusing on the plight of three groups of vulnerable women workers in Sri Lanka, I share in this memoir my personal accounts of how I carried out my mission to promote social justice at official and personal levels while being posted as director of the ILO Colombo Office during the height of the civil war. The short and extended descriptions of the book are presented below for a glimpse of the content.
Academic, yet deeply moving, Posted in Colombo by Shizue Tomoda depicts how she came to work in Sri Lanka as ILO director and how she carried out her mission to promote social justice in handling labor issues at official and personal levels. In twenty-five chapters with titles like “A Brief History of Sri Lanka,” “Toiling Women of Sri Lanka,” “Indian Tamils of Sri Lanka,” and “The Elephant Pass Crisis,” Tomoda describes the ethnic conflict that has plagued the country since independence and the social and labor issues facing vulnerable workers. She also narrates the very personal journey she took in helping her domestic worker Devi become more self-assured by acquiring new skills.
Beyond the constant fear of suicide bombs and daily struggles to meet the needs of Devi and her children, Tomoda bears testimony as Devi makes a gradual but steady transformation. From meekness to confidence, this woman is an example of how women’s empowerment can make a difference in social development.
A fascinating memoir that deciphers the tragic civil war in Sri Lanka as well as the complex ethnic composition of Sri Lankan society, Posted in Colombo by Shizue Tomoda, a former director of ILO’s Colombo Office, is a story of pain, toils, agony, and light. It addresses social and labor issues of vulnerable women workers, such as garment workers in export processing zones and migrant workers employed mostly as housemaids in the Middle East, as well as the miserable plight of hundreds of thousands of Indian Tamils of Sri Lanka.
Against the backdrop of women workers struggling to escape from poverty, Tomoda sheds light on how such women workers can be lifted out of despair by helping them become more confident and self-assured, enabling them to aspire to modest goals and adopt a more positive outlook for the future. Tomoda shows that this slow but steady transformation of women becoming empowered and taking an increasingly greater role in society is a key to socioeconomic development.
Life in Sri Lanka is full of dichotomy: while women in garment, migrant, and plantation sectors earn a mere pittance, these sectors are the three most important sources of foreign exchange for Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, they receive little recognition for sustaining their families and communities and contributing to the national economy.
Tomoda also makes a distinction between Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian Tamils of Sri Lanka. The former are natives of the island who held senior civil service posts in the colonial administration; the latter had been brought to the island from South India during the colonial period as indentured laborers to work on the plantations in central highlands. This group had little access to education and opportunities. They have remained in the same areas and in poverty for generations.
In the twenty-five engaging chapters with titles like “A Brief History of Sri Lanka,” “Education and Welfare for the Indian Tamils of Sri Lanka,” and “The Elephant Pass Crisis,” Tomoda examines the struggles of Sri Lanka. With the constant threat of suicide bombs and other toils of war, the author bears testimony to an extraordinary event. Much more than an informative exposé on Sri Lankan history, labor, ethnic and gender issues, Tomoda stresses that hope and possibilities are inalienable human rights.
Hope you will find the book as enjoyable as it is informative.