Ritu Sharma is a leading voice on international women’s issues and U.S. foreign policy. Due in large part to Ritu and Women Thrive Worldwide, the interests of women living in poverty worldwide are now being incorporated into U.S. economic assistance and trade policies and, in some cases, into U.S. law itself.Rithu sharma, traveled to Sri Lanka, and this is what she had to add to her experience-
My first trip of the year just recently ended. For two days in Sri Lanka, I stayed with Prahansa, a woman caring for her three young nieces. Their father is in prison, and their mother out of the picture. They are such vibrant girls who love to sing and dance. The eldest is 14 years old and dreams of growing up to teach traditional Sri Lankan music.
They are too young to recognize some of their circumstance — or perhaps not. At night, the house becomes a virtual broiler, filled corner to corner with thick, unrelenting heat that makes your clothes stick to you. Prahansa can’t afford bars for the windows of their tiny house to keep ill doers away from the girls during the night, so at the end of each day the windows are sealed tightly and the house becomes a sauna of discomfort.
There is hardly any kind of support system to help Prahansa raise the girls. She rises at 4 am each morning to sell cups of rice to street goers, and that’s all the income she has. She has arthritis and needs pain medication to beat it back enough to walk. The medication is free at the government hospital, but the bus fare to get there and back isn’t. School is also free, but again, it costs money to take the bus to and from school. Walking is free, but it’s just too far and too dangerous for the girls to do each and every day.