In the words of Anoja Makawita: “There is an urgent need for women’s shelters in every district of Sri Lanka”
Anoja Makawita is a social worker with over 15 years of experience in providing counselling support to survivors of violence through Women in Need (WIN) – an organization that provides services to women and girls experiencing sexual and gender-based violence in Sri Lanka. UN Women’s project ‘Empowering Women in Crisis’ (February 2023 – January 2024) funded by the Government of Japan provides emergency relief and support to women’s shelters most affected by the socio-economic crisis in the country. This includes shelters run by WIN.
In our society, there is a belief that domestic violence should be kept behind closed doors and not discussed openly. However, when you step into our field of work, you quickly realize the magnitude of the problem. Violence within families has far-reaching consequences, and it is women and girls who suffer the most. It is not just an issue within individual households; it has an impact on entire communities.
There is an urgent need for women’s shelters in every district of Sri Lanka because there are very few places in the country for survivors to take refuge. I'm proud to say that I was part of the group of women who founded WIN back in 1987. We established this organization at a time when there was no platform or safe space for survivors of domestic violence. Since then, WIN has been actively providing survivors with legal aid and counselling.
Most of the women who come to us are in a state of helplessness and we work tirelessly to help them plan for their future and empower them to lead decent lives. Helping these women reintegrate into society is however one of the most challenging aspects of our work. This is because many of the women who come to our temporary shelters have no safe place to return to. Some can’t afford to pay rent for their own place, and in some cases, their parents don't have a permanent home either.
To address this, we collaborate with officials, our board of directors, and several other supporting organizations and help them with rent for about six months, giving these women time to find employment.
Once they leave the shelter, we conduct post-inspections to check on their well-being. Our legal advisors provide the necessary legal support, while counselors and social service officers follow up to ensure they’re coping well.
Efficiency and productivity in our work depend on strong coordination with other organizations. Although we provide legal and counseling support, we often need assistance in helping these women find jobs or providing self-employment opportunities. I want to express my deep gratitude to UN Women for their invaluable support, especially during times of economic hardship. Providing essential resources such as food, medicine, clothing, and other provisions comes at a significant cost. Moreover, finding suitable facilities for these women even after they leave our shelters is a challenging task. The support rendered by UN Women has been priceless in our mission to empower women and combat gender-based violence.”