Promoting Children’s Rights with Sri Lanka ‘Street Drama’

It was noon at a Hatton bus terminal when 12-year-old Shanthi, clad in a brown gown and tenderly touching her 10-year-old brother’s head, cried, “My heart is heavy with sorrow,” as crowds gathered around her.

Shanthi is one of the actresses in a “street drama” in central Sri Lanka promoting awareness on child labor, child begging, domestic torture and children’s rights.

Source: CathNews India

CathNews India

Children act in a street drama based on the real lives of plantation workers in central Sri Lanka

Shanthi explains that she acts as mother and father of her three brothers, living in poverty on a tea estate.

Her father leaves in the morning to drink, coming home late only to eat what’s left on the table. Meanwhile, her mother works as a housemaid in Saudi Arabia.

“I’m afraid my brothers will leave me due to peer pressure,” she said. Thousands of children run away from estates to work or beg in major cities.

Two generations of Shanthi’s family have worked in tea plantations, many of which lack basic amenities such as running water. Each worker’s earnings average about US$60 a month.

Based on real life, the street drama was organized by Caritas Kandy, the social service agency of Kandy diocese.

Father Camillus D. Jansz, director of Caritas Kandy, said poverty, low wages and boozing parents lead people to take advantage of unattended children.

“Tourists visiting tea factories never see the line houses and the poorly-run estate school,” he said.

The Sri Lankan Church calls on authorities to take a stringent approach and formulate new laws to address plantation children’s issues.

“Caritas helps us to continue our studies ways but we need more help,” said 15-year old Vishwanadan Ambiga, one of the street drama actresses.

Many tea estate workers in Sri Lanka are descendants of South Indians brought by the British during the 19th and 20th centuries to work in tea, coffee and rubber plantations. Tea plantations currently earn billions of dollars for Sri Lanka.


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