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Third wave halts women’s microfinance satyagraha

The satyagraha at Hingurakgoda, organised by the Collective of Women Affected by Microfinance Loans, and carried out continuously since 8 March, has been temporarily halted on its 55th day on 1 May, due to the escalating Covid-19 pandemic.

In a statement released on Saturday (1), the Collective stated that the escalating Covid-19 pandemic had resulted in the temporary halt of the satyagraha at Hingurakgoda, and had compelled them to continue their struggle through alternative mechanisms.

“We managed to accomplish many things throughout the satyagraha. Apart from awakening the Government from a false slumber, we also succeeded in uniting the whole society in support and solidarity with our struggle,” the statement noted. 

“We managed to mobilise many microfinance-affected women, not only in Polonnaruwa District, but all over Sri Lanka. Numerous trade unions, farmers and fishers’ organisations, plantation workers, students and women’s organisations in Sri Lanka, South Asia, and all over the world, joined hands with us in solidarity against predatory microfinance lenders.”

The statement also warned microfinance companies to stop the physical, psychological, and sexual violence against women trapped in the cycle of debt, and alleged that it is “deplorable” that the Government, which has the authority to regulate financial markets, does not prevent the extortion of people.

The satyagraha began on International Women’s Day (8 March) against the helpless situation these women have been left in by microfinance debt. It is reported that the predatory debt cycle has claimed over 200 lives and left 2.8 million people victimised.