In December 2017 following the UK Southbank Centre’s Women of the World Festival founded by Jude Kelly, in Colombo, we initiated a grant scheme to build capacity and empower artists, gender activists and development organisations who wanted to raise awareness, create debate and discussion and address some of the Women and Girls issues relating to gender equality and empowerment under the title of ‘Voices and Choices’.
Voices and Choices Grant Scheme
Why Saama? Little Girl Giant
Produced by Sulochana Dissanayake, Artistic Director of Power of Play, is a play about a girl who becomes a giant by never adhering to the cultural norms constructed by society. Throughout the performance stereotypical questions on gender are cleverly intertwined and addressed, creating a safe, inclusive space for children to enjoy, learn and engage in the presence of their teachers. Question and answer sessions following the performance allow the children to explore their views.
The project has received the Sri Lankan Ministry of Education's approval giving it acceptance at a national level. The project engaged with 8,870 students and teachers across the country.
Click here to watch the project video on YouTube.
Songs and music videos creating awareness of gender based violence and self-harm
Watch the music video on gender-based violence here.
Popular singer Ashanthi's music video to her single 'Rajiniye' highlighting Gender-Based Violence has been released. The music video is part of a second grant given to the singer where earlier in the year on 8 March 2020 (International Women’s Day) she launched this song at a concert in British Council. Ashanthi will also be organising online discussions on both topics.
Her first grant where she produced a music video to raise awareness on self-harm engaged with 240,300+ viewers and working with the national mobile telecom, Mobitel (Pvt) Ltd, she has raised around Rupees 1 million from digital downloads of the single. All proceeds are being donated to the mental health services NGO, Sumithrayo to sustain their suicide helplines.
Transforming communities: Voices and Choices of Women and Girls
A project by Samitha Sugathimala, gender specialist, of the Foundation for Innovative Social Development (FISD), is aimed at recognizing and building the image of 200 women leaders and 100 young girls (leaders) across Anuradhapura, Hambantota and Monaragala, whom have contributed towards the wellbeing of their communities, changing their lives and motivating other women and girls to have a strong voice and better life chances.
They also published a book highlighting 60 stories of women and girls from Anuradhapura, Monaragala and Hambanthota to create an understanding of what leadership means.
Through this project, FISD was able to create a platform for women and girls to share their experiences with their community members as leaders. It also created an opportunity for women who are the unsung heroes of the communities to gain recognition and understand their self-value.
Consent and Complicity
A forum theatre performance produced by Tracy Holsinger and her theatre company 'Mind Adventures' hopes to create awareness of issues around online bullying and sexual exploitation of girls in the online environment.
After their initial performance for 100+ school girls aged 15 – 19 and their parents and teachers during the project period, they are now having ticketed performances for audiences.
We hear you!
A project by Sarah Soysa, sexual and reproductive health specialist and her team at Youth Advocacy Network (YAN) have developed tools and interfaces which provide life skills, including knowledge on sexual and reproductive health, for young people specifically young girls living with hearing disabilities at the Ceylon School for the Deaf, Ratmalana.
Using the Ministry of Education Health Science curriculum for Grade 7 – 11 a computer-based module was developed containing sessions in a graphic and a pictorial manner supported by sign language interpretations.
A further grant has been provided for YAN to work with other schools for the deaf in the country.
A project by Ponni Arasu, theatre practitioner and Sarala Emmanual, gender activist, brought together performers and gender practitioners/activists from 7 organisations across North and East to create a safe space and use different art forms to highlight gender issues in their communities.
It also provided an opportunity to create links between the organisations to work together.
Click here to watch the project video on YouTube.
A further grant has been provided to build the capacity of more artists and activists in the North and East.
The Language We Speak
A project by Paba Deshapriya, sexual, reproductive health and gender specialist of The Grassrooted Trust, build capacity of 28 young people’s skills to use photography and writing to create online content (Tamil and Sinhalese) for their website bakamoono.lk on gender based, intimate partner and sexual violence, and reached an audience of 313,800+.
The project also built capacity of a group of 10 female writers from Kurunegala with an increased understating of gender, sexuality and violence who are running a bi-monthly magazine to educate rural women. Their magazine ‘Athwela’ will be on bakamoono.lk for a wider reach.
Here are the links for the Sinhalese and Tamil articles produced by the project trained participants.
Young Women’s Leadership Network
A project by Mahisha Balraj, youth activist of Hashtag Generation organised leadership seminars for young women in the Colombo University.
Challenging the issues faced by Women and Girls – Arts for Social Change Projects
The ambition to reach gender equity and eliminate disadvantage is at the heart of our Women and Girls work recognising that the key issues for Sri Lanka are a very high rate of domestic violence, sexual harassment, social media exploitation, suicide rates, over-protection of girls, and under-employment despite good educational achievements. Whilst addressing some of these issues directly, in the longer term our interventions are aimed at attitudinal change, tackling gender norms and attitudes among women and girls, as well as men and boys, and thus enabling the former to participate fully in society.
Our current and future programmes focus on reducing violence, creating role models, and tackling social media harassment through community-based interventions, as well as raising awareness, increasing aspirations for career opportunities and stimulating attitude change through providing a voice, a choice and agency for female empowerment and change.