• The Disappearing Dhobis

    In the British Colonial era, warships that docked at the Colombo Port had been in dire need of a facility to wash their linen as amenities to do the laundry were not available onboard. The Dhobi community residing in the vicinity of Beira Lake emerged to fill this need. According to a washer-man in Polwatte- P. B. Fernando, in 1928 the laundry men and women had staged a protest – a Dhobi revolution of sorts - demanding cleaner premises to do the washing. The British officers reported this to the Monarch and received instructions to construct a better laundry facility and so the Polwatte laundry across the murky waters of Beira came to be. I visited this olden day laundry at dawn on a Sunday morning in February 2012, just as rumours of their relocation began to circulate. Back then they didn’t wish to be moved, but ultimately, they were no match for the rapid ongoing‘beautification’of the city of Colombo. Today, the laundry, and also the kovil there, has been razed to the ground, and the families relocated to a new location. In many ways, the laundrymen claim life at the new laundry is tougher than at Polwatte. They also worry about the possibility of being moved once again, as the urban regeneration drive continues apace. (Photographs and text by Lakna Paranamanna)

    Contributor - Lakna Paranamanna

    Posted in development and progress poverty and prosperity

  • A Childhood Robbed

    In 2013, a TIME Magazine article titled ‘Sri Lanka Struggles to Contain a Growing Epidemic of Child Abuse’ reported that three to five children are raped every day in Sri Lanka and that “the total number of all crimes against children — which besides sex crimes include crimes of violence, abduction, trafficking and other offenses — increased by a dramatic 64% between 2011 and 2012.” Patriarchal values within Sri Lankan culture and misplaced religious beliefs bring shame and stigmatisation to these girls and their families. Research shows that perpetrators of sexual abuse are often known to the victims, and are often part of the family unit. Often, many instances of such violence go unreported. Survivors of sexual abuse are placed in shelters owned and managed both by private sector institutions and by the state until arduous court proceedings end. In the discourse on prevention of gender based violence, an issue which is often overlooked is the challenges faced by the girls who are courageously testifying in court. The Picture Press together with Emerge Lanka, and the kind collaboration of one such institution, caught a glimpse into their lives and presents it in this feature (Photographs by Chatrini Weeratunge and text by Aarthi Dharmadasa).

    Contributor - Chatrini Weeratunge & Aarthi Dharmadasa

    Posted in development and progress poverty and prosperity poverty and prosperity youth

  • Java Lane, Vanishing With Old Colombo

    The eviction and relocation of residents in Slave Island of an area approximately 160 acres in the heart of Colombo 1 began almost two years ago. Seventy thousand households are being relocated to newly constructed apartment-style housing elsewhere. It is part of a wider project called the ‘City of Colombo Urban Regeneration Project’ spearheaded by the Urban Development Authority, functioning under the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development. The project’s stated aims are to ‘eliminate shanties, slums and other dilapidated housing’, ‘resettlement of families in […] new housing schemes’, and ‘make the City of Colombo the most attractive city in South Asia’. Yet, as this feature reveals, the evictions are taking a heavy toll on the lives, livelihoods and community ties of the residents of these areas. In places like Java Lane, in Slave Island, the process appears to be rather haphazard, causing much distress to its residents. The majority of them have lived here for generations – some as squatters on state property, but many in privately-owned housing. In this feature, photographer and economist Abdul Halik Azeez takes you on a journey through the heart of Slave Island, into the community on Java Lane. Walking through the rubble, he explores the lives and homes of the people who live there, just days before it was all razed to the ground - with it, taking away not only concrete structures but also social structures of an entire neighbourhood of people.

    Contributor - Abdul-Halik Azeez

    Posted in development and progress poverty and prosperity poverty and prosperity youth development and progress poverty and prosperity

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