Last month a group of Sri Lankan garment workers and their families met for the first Solidarity Kitchen.
At the outside kitchen, there is much laughter and chatter as they prepare the food. After they eat, the families play games, sing, dance and talk some more.
Christian World Service partner the Women’s Centre and the Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union started the Solidarity Kitchen to meet the food gap. Now they want to run more.
Executive Director of the Women’s Centre Padmini Weerasooriya is encouraging the workers to cook together to maximise resources and “ensure no one is left behind to suffer from hunger with the severe economic crisis which hit their kitchens directly.”
“This will raise their mental morale and spread it to those around them,” writes Padmini.
Food prices rose 57.4% in the first six months of the year. Fuel (including cooking gas) and medicines are out of reach. The country has been forced to close schools and there are regular power blackouts.
Workers have taken on extra shifts or another job to survive. Some have been made redundant and in desperation, a few have turned to sex work. “The women who are the backbone of the industry are paying the highest prices,” adds Padmini.
Garment workers and tea pickers are employed in two industries that earn the foreign exchange the country desperately needs. After Covid-19, garment workers like Premalatha who featured in CWS’s Winter Story ‘Sometimes we Starve’ and women picking tea are asking “What next?”
Premalatha has a young daughter to raise and is trying to send money back home to her parents who are agricultural workers. She is one of thousands of workers who have nowhere to turn.
CWS partners in Sri Lanka: the Women’s Centre, Devasarana and Monlar (the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform), work closely with the people to improve their livelihoods and foster better relations between people of different religions and ethnicities.
“We feel deeply for the people who are paying the price of harmful economic policies. Please remember them in your prayers. Donations to the Winter Appeal will give our partners the resources they need to offer water, food and justice to some of the people struggling the most,” says Murray Overton, National Director.
Donations to the Winter Appeal can be made here or by phone 000 74 73 72.
July 27, 2022
Images: Women’s Centre