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Vilashini Weerasinghe is Assistant Director of the Sri Lanka Planning Service, a Government institution in Badulla, capital of Uva Province. She has been working to address issues faced by plantation workers for the last 17 years. In October 2021, Weerasinghe attended a series of “multi-party dialogues” that UN Women hosted as part of its project, funded by the Government of Japan, on implementing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Sri Lanka.
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Ishan Priyaranga, 27, is Minister of Public Transport (Kalutara District) in the Youth Parliament of Sri Lanka. In October 2021, Priyaranga attended a series of “multi-party dialogues” that UN Women hosted as part of its project, funded by the Government of Japan, on implementing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Sri Lanka.
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Chandrawathi Dissanayaka, based in Siyambalanduwa, in Uva Province of Sri Lanka, is the first and only woman elected as president of a Pradeshiya Sabha [local authority] in the country. In October 2021, Dissanayaka attended a series of “multi-party dialogues” that UN Women hosted as part of its project, funded by the Government of Japan, on Implementing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Sri Lanka.
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“We … have a host of cultural barriers that prevent women from seeking help. For example, victims of violence are often threatened not to go to court and are subject to extreme physical and psychological abuse. Women also find legal battles as a ‘hassle’ to their daily lives, because they have to juggle multiple responsibilities at home and work.
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Based on international standards, many policies have been put forward to ensure the safety of women and to address inequalities. However, implementation is lacking. If a woman goes to the police station to make a complaint, the system is such that they don’t often feel safe and protected.
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[Press release] During her official visit to Sri Lanka recently, the Officer-in-Charge for UN Women Asia and the Pacific met with key partners to reaffirm UN Women’s commitment to ensure that women and girls are not left behind amidst recovery from the ongoing economic crisis.
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Using her skills in palm-weaving, Lucia, 42 sells a variety of custom-made products to provide an additional income to her family. “For us, even a small income goes a long way”, she says. Lucia has been specializing in palm-weaving since 2014. However, from the beginning of her craft-making career, she has had to face persistent challenges to prove her capabilities in what she calls a ’man’s world.” The trainings and support provided to Lucia and Kamalawathi are part of a project titled Implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Sri Lanka, which UN Women implements with the State Ministry of Women and Child Development, Pre-Schools and Primary Education, School Infrastructure and Education Services.
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Addressing and responding to sexual and gender-based violence is an integral aspect of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. 46-year-old L.D. W Sanjeewani is a Chief Inspector of Police, serving in the Polonnaruwa Police Division in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka. She has over 25 years of experience helping survivors of violence.
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[Press Release] In Sri Lanka, women are denied equal access to the jobs market not just because of family or social factors, but also by employers. This is the focus of a report launched by UN Women today, titled Gender Disparities and Labour Market Challenges: The Demand for Women Workers in Sri Lanka. This report is amongst the first in the country to illustrate the largely unexplored factors on the part of employers and firms that prevent women from entering the paid workforce.
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[Press release] SALAM was launched by the Governance of Labour Migration in South and South-East Asia (GOALS), a regional programme jointly implemented by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and UN Women, with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The hub seeks to be a one-stop platform serving policy makers, civil society actors, social partners and other stakeholders with knowledge, information, networks, and policy solutions leading to positive changes in labour migration policies and practices.
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Bhagya Krishanthi, 43, is the owner and manager of a boarding house and a small corner grocery store in Malabe, a suburb a few kilometres outside of the commercial capital of Colombo. She built up her store from humble beginnings, first selling simple items such as coconuts, oil and eggs, then expanding into a larger variety of goods when more capital and profits trickled in.
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Shreen Saroor runs the Women’s Action Network (WAN) in Sri Lanka, a collective of women’s groups that empowers and advocates for women and women survivors of war, violence and other injustices. As the Generation Equality Forum – a landmark event to catalyze rapid advancement on gender equality – approaches, she calls on leaders to close the gaps between policies and implementation. The Forum is convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France, in partnership with youth and civil society.
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Rajeshwari Diaz, 46, and Kaweeda Manohari, 48, are among the many women who have seen these benefits as they attend trainings and community dialogues organized by a project called Promoting Women’s Engagement in Effective Solid Waste Management. UN Women is running the project jointly with United Nations Office for Project Services and Chrysalis, a local non-governmental organization. The 2020-2021 project is expected to directly benefit about 4,000 people in Puttalam and Mannar, fishing and agricultural districts along Sri Lanka’s western coast.
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Otimau Mariano, 39, from Kiribati. Photo: UN Women/Jacqui Berrell There are so many men using their wife like punching bags, and it’s become normal, even if you stop them, the man will fight back with you, but this project reminds us of what should be normal.Since I joined this project, I have experienced a lot of change within myself. This project has helped me realise I want peace. This change was a result of the Strengthening Peaceful Villages training. In the training, I...
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Teretia Tokam, Coordinator of the Kiribati Women and Children Support Centre (KWCSC). Photo courtesy of Tara Chetty/Pacific Women Support Unit I think [often] about my journey so far and all my experiences bringing me to this point where I coordinate the Centre. Some experiences have been really tough, and they broke me down, but they also made me strong and able to give a voice to women and be supportive to women who are being abused. There was one experience that was a turning...
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“Through this project, we are working with women to ensure their voices are heard and that they are fully involved in making decisions that impact them, their households and communities,” said Ramaaya Salgado, Country Focal Point at UN Women Sri Lanka. “Solid waste management was iden-tified as the main community issue that this project addresses, but we are building their capacities so that this whole-of-community approach can be replicated in addressing other conflicts and community issues as well.”
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When the Covid-19 pandemic struck Sri Lanka, women faced some of its most severe and unforeseen impacts. The pandemic exposed deep, structural inequalities that exist within our social and economic systems. A total of 61 percent of the country’s working women are in informal employment, where livelihoods were hit faster and harder by the pandemic and measures to control it.
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When I saw this happening, I did not want to be a silent spectator. I wanted to make a difference in my community. This is when I joined the village dengue prevention committee. We worked hard to raise awareness among the public and helped remove mosquito breeding sites. I am proud to say that our hard work paid off and we managed to eradicate dengue in the area.
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Winifrida Elizabeth Nawaratne is a human rights activist and an active member of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka. She became engaged in social work following a course on human rights at the University of Colombo, which she took after retiring from her job as a typist. She was a participant in UN Women’s multistakeholder dialogues titled “Promoting Women’s Engagement in Effective Solid Waste Management in Sri Lanka”. Winifrida dedicates her time to promoting women’s rights and women’s empowerment in her community in Puttalam, north-western Sri Lanka.
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In the lead up to the Generation Equality Forum in Paris, UN Women together with the Embassy of France in Sri Lanka hosted a series of conversations on gender equality in the country. The virtual discussions brought together experts and activists who discussed existing challenges, especially in light of COVID-19, and transformative ways forward. Below is a snapshot of the six key issues and action points highlighted.