The British Council in Sri Lanka has, through its many projects, supported gender equality, and reducing violence against women. Together with civil society assistance, they have offered technical assistance, capacity building and grants to implement innovative projects.
The annual international campaign ‘16 days of activism against gender-based violence’ began on 25 November and ends on 10 December, International Human Rights Day. In commemoration of this campaign, the British Council is hosting an interactive virtual panel discussion titled ‘Unpacking Violence’ on 9 December 2020. This event aims to help audiences better understand the various initiatives that are taking place to create awareness, change perceptions and address the causes, while countering the stigma relating to gender-based violence/violence against women.
The panel discussion promises to be a lively and thought-provoking event with an impressive line-up of women rights activists and inspirational speakers. They will share ideas and their commitments to increase the momentum on addressing gender-based violence. They will also discuss projects implemented in partnership with the British Council.
Panellists will be Ashanthi De Alwis, queen of Sri Lankan pop, Anoma Rajakaruna well-known filmmaker, art curator and sociologist, Samitha Sugathimala, Director, Programmes at Foundation for Innovative Social Development (FISD) and expert on gender related development issues, Nadarajah Sukirtharaj, Co-ordinator, Jaffna Social Action Centre and President, NGO Council, Jaffna with vast expertise on women’s and girl’s rights-based issues, Sharanya Sekaram, feminist writer, researcher, and activist well-known for her work in the gender space. Kinita Shenoy, writer and communications specialist will moderate the event.
Commenting on British Council’s initiatives, British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Sarah Hulton said, “Gender-based violence is intolerable in all its forms and is still destroying lives around the world. The pandemic has exacerbated the issue and reminded us that home is not always a safe space. The UK is firmly committed to supporting work to end gender-based violence and support survivors. We are proud of the inspirational work by British Council and their partners across Sri Lanka to raise awareness and tackle stigma.”
Among other inspiring and collaborative projects that the British Council is engaged in is its partnership with Hashtag Generation. This vibrant youth-led movement advocates for change through volunteering and collective action, promoting dialogue on gender equality at community-level.
Hashtag Generation’s social media campaign #HerSafeSpace addressed violence against women and girls. The project engaged women, men and youth through various community activities in Moneragala, Hambanthota, Jaffna and Batticaloa districts.
Explaining the British Council’s contribution, Senel Wanniarachchi, Co-founder and Director said, “For Hashtag Generation this was a really good experience. It was not a communication campaign featuring experts in a more technical sense; it was centred on the voices of women, men and youth from these four districts.”
“It was also not just the training itself”, he added. “After our training, the participants were required to do their own Social Action Projects. This ensured that our impact was not limited to the small group that was being trained and they were able to take this message to their communities through various initiatives.”
Addressing gender-based violence, the British Council also launched a booklet titled ‘Empowering Communities to Address Violence Against Women and Girls’. The publication, which is part of the British Council’s ongoing campaign, highlighted several inspirational success stories of how women and young people in rural areas were able to lead change in their own communities.
Through its arts work, the British Council’s Voices and Grants Scheme is also addressing women and girls’ issues relating to gender equality and empowerment.
Maarya Rehman, Country Director, British Council said, “Drawing on our wealth of experience and resources, these projects through our work in arts and society help us to partner local grass-root organisations and women’s rights activists making a positive change in attitudes and behaviours towards preventing gender violence. Through this we also reinforce our commitment to empower women and girls towards the development of a more open, inclusive and secure society.”