Beyond Borders: Sri Lankan Women as tradeswomen
Beyond Borders: Interview with Leslie Ouimet, World University Service of Canada
3 November 2004
For more than 20 years Sri Lanka has been ravaged by a religious and ethnic conflict. Many question what role Canada can play in trying to help settle the conflict.
One of SAP Canadaï¿½s member organizations, World University Service of Canada, WUSC, has been working in Sri Lanka since 1989.
WUSC was established in 1939 with a commitment to foster human development and global understanding through education and training.
Lesley Ouimet is a Senior Project officer with WUSC. She recently appeared on SAP Canadaï¿½s Beyond Borders radio program to discuss some of WUSC projects in the area.
One of the main projects WUSC operates in Sri Lanka is a vocational training project. The Project for Rehabilitation through Education and Training (PRET) was established due to the overwhelming need to encourage women to enter non-traditional trades, such as plumbing, masonry and carpentry. PRET provides Sri Lankan women with a specialized skill set to encourage them to become more economically independent.
PRET aims to help with the overall peace process as it provides a viable alternative to people to earn a sustainable living. Rather than join the war, women are able to obtain education and skills. The Sri Lankan government has openly stated that economic and social developments are key components to achieving lasting peace.
This project currently operates in 12 districts across the country with both Tamil and Sinhalese participants. PRET has been successful in offering alternative options to people in Sri Lanka, which currently boasts a 74% employment rate. The project is able to work freely in the country, as WUSC has established a rapport with government and local partners.
To overcome local resistance and gender inequalities, PRET has a gender unit working along side the trainers and field workers. Gender-sensitivity training is essential in Sri Lanka to ensure that women will be accepted in non-traditional work environments.
PRET operates a standardized program. Due to the diverse make-up of the Sri Lankan people, however, adaptations have been made to reflect the needs of individual communities across the island. Trade training courses, for instance, are offered in both Tamil and Sinhalese.
What’s in the future?
WUSC is in the process of establishing a volunteer-based vocational program. WUSC will be recruiting volunteers — including teachers, administrators and tradespeople — from Canada and abroad to go into the area to implement this program. For more information check out their Web site at www.wusc.ca