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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 1587

More than 15,000 vacancies at Katunayake Free Trade Zone

Q Perera - Reporting from Colombo

Colombo, 08 October, ( Consequent to the setting up of the Free Trade Zones, specially the first and the large of such FTZ at Katunayake, the authorities for the last 20 years failed to provide hostel facilities. Due to this failure, the private households who provide boarding facilities to a large number of girls have been exploiting them, while failing to provide basic amenities such as water, adequate accommodation and proper sanitation.

Due to lack of proper boarding facilities, though there are large number of vacancies in the Katunayake FTZ the girls from outstations are reluctant to take up these jobs.

What some governments did was to blame the Free Trade Zone concept while enjoying the advantages it provided and they have neglected to provide the balance infrastructure facilities such accommodation for these girls in close proximity to the Zone. In countries, which started garment manufacturing for exports such as China and Vietnam, have provided adequate accommodation, which attracted people to work in those factories.

To allow the households to exploit these girls, the authorities have allowed them to board these girls with least facilities. Most of these boarding houses are made out of wooden planks and are tiny cubicles barely sufficient for these girls to move about and also interferes with their privacy. Some of these boarding houses accommodate large number of girls but there would be one or two makeshift toilets and early in the morning these girls have to queue up to take their turns to use the toilet facility. Many boarding places restrict the use of water and some of them prevent these girls using the household wells.

Most of these girls have to use common public wells for their bathing and washing clothes.

The other serious matters that prevent outstation girls to take up jobs in these FTZs have been the security and inadequate transport facilities. Most of these girls who are employed come from remote rural areas of Sri Lanka and are mostly just after leaving the schools and there are nobody here to protect and advice them. Those locals in the FTZ areas usually treat these girls as outcastes and try to take advantage of their loneliness.
There have been numerous occasions where these girls have been abducted and raped. As this negative information reaches the ears of those girls who otherwise take up these jobs, never take up the jobs.

The Board of Investment under whose purview these FTZs operate has apparently turned a blind eye to these pressing problems. It should use its own funds or get state funds to put up adequate buildings to provide accommodation for these girls and also it is the responsibility of the BOI to provide sufficient transport facilities and see that all these girls are safe in and outside the FTZs. Further, it must also get their officials visit the existing private boarding houses to ensure the basic facilities for these girls.

Unless these shortcomings are fulfilled, it would be difficult to attract girls to fill these vacancies and the girls who are already in the employ of FTZs would tend to leave, if this trend is to continue.

- Asian Tribune -

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