by Rochelle Palipane Gunaratne
“You must make women count as much as men; you must have an equal standard of morals; and the only way to enforce that is through giving women political power so that you can get that equal moral standard registered in the laws of the country. It is the only way.” Emmeline Pankhurst
Somehow, for some reason the feisty suffragist, Emmeline Pankhurst came to my mind as I commenced this article on another indomitable woman, Ruwini Dharmasiri, the Chairperson of the Waste Management Authority (Western Province). She, like Emmeline is a woman of small stature but that belies the inner strength she possesses as she faces the giants of the political arena of our country. Not to be mowed down or bullied into submission is this amazingly admirable lady of substance.
Ruwini seems to have sipped the waters from the fountain of eternal youth as she displays an innocence and exuberance with is certainly youthful. Her ever smiling face and eyes which reflect an inner mirth draws people to her as they find a compassionate human being in Ruwini.
As an alumnus of St. Bridget’s Convent, Ruwini excelled in six sports; from cricket, elle, basketball, netball, swimming to athletics and in her studies as well, but the political instability in the early 90’s caused her parents to send her to Belvoir College and to Methodist Kings College in England thereafter. After obtaining her BSc in Chemistry and her MSc in Analytical Chemistry and Biopharmaceutical, she followed an internship at the British Pharmaceutical and Bio Medical University as a Research Assistant. Ruwini’s dynamic personality enables her to multi-task with ease which is probably the reason she got involved in more than one research programme as a protégé of Professor Perrot at St. Barks Hospital among others.
The Ties that Bind
Her father, W. A. Dharmasiri is a celebrated movie Producer, with movies such as ‘Ahahsin Polowata,’ (adjudged the 3rd World Best Movie of the Year in 1978) to his credit. Her mother, Malani Dharmasiri and father are a power couple who held sway in the in the political and cinematic arena during the 80’s and 90’s with a great love for people. She is also the eldest and the only girl with three younger brothers, which is probably the reason she seems to possess a great of deal of boundless energy.
Armed with a solid education and experience, Ruwini returned to Sri Lanka after 24 years in England and remained unlike the previous times when she would return on furlough. This time it was for good and for the good of the country and its people as the bright and brilliant lady had much to offer to a country on the verge of change. Sri Lanka per se was on the brink of a much needed facelift in all facets of life and Ruwini’s potential was identified by the former President Chandrika Bandaranayake Kumaratunga.
Sri Lanka’s exponential growth requires strategic and innovative thinkers like Ruwini who have the required skills needed to meet the challenges. She is further propelled by a profound patriotism and an innate compassion for the hoi polloi. She feels the pulse of the people and often renders a yeomen service to their upliftment.
Her travels to countries such as Malaysia and Singapore have been instrumental in building rapports with some of the movers and shakers of the respective countries and garnered a wealth of information while exchanging invaluable ideas relevant to her field of expertise.
The Fearless Reformer
Ruwini has made significant changes in the field of waste management in the Western province and borne the various darts that were hurled her way with poise and proven her capabilities through the results which are seen throughout her area of responsibility.
During the interview my sense of admiration in Ruwini grew in leaps and bounds, after all, here was a highly educated, extremely talented lady who has excelled in a niche field and has the option of working in a developed country, but Sri Lanka is very fortunate to have a treasure in Ruwini, who has inherited her parents love for the people of her beloved country and a heart which yearns to create a better life for them.