The little girl giant

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.

Voices and Choices Grant Scheme

In 2017/18 we initiated a grant scheme to capacity build and empower artists, gender activists and development organisations who wanted to raise awareness, create debate and discussion and address some of the issues in this area, under the title of Voices and Choices and to deliver impact in 2018/19 and beyond (Official Development Aid uplift projects).

We seed-funded 8 projects on the themes and issues arising from the Women Of the World festival, Colombo 2017 as follows:

We hear you!

Sarah Soysa, sexual and reproductive health specialist, of Youth Advocacy Network (YAN), will address the needs of deaf girls to build knowledge/confidence on issues of sexual and reproductive health. They will create a curriculum for grades 7 to 11 which teachers/trainers at the Ratmalana school for the deaf can use long after the project ends. A further grant has been provided for YAN to work with another 3 schools for the deaf in the country. 

Consent and Complicity

Tracy Holsinger and her theatre company Mind Adventures using forum theatre techniques hoped to create awareness of issues around online bullying and sexual exploitation of girls in the online environment. They organised a performance for 100+ school girls aged 15 – 19 and parents and teachers.

The Language We Speak

Paba Deshapriya, sexual and reproductive health and gender specialist of 'The Grassrooted Trust' trained 30+ young people to create online content (Tamil and Sinhalese) focusing on themes of gender-based, intimate partner and sexual violence.

Suicide Prevention Music Video

Well-known singer, Ashanti de Alwis created a music video to raise awareness of suicide and how it affects women and girls. She has raised around rupees 1 million from digital downloads and donated it to sustain suicide helplines. A further grant has been provided to create a music video highlighting ‘Violence Against Women’ and ‘Gender-Based Violence’ and to highlight these issues among school children.

Why Sama?

Sulochana Dissanayake, artistic director of Power of Play created a puppet drama about a little girl who, by never adhering to cultural norms, became the giant she wanted to be, and organised performances for school children across the country. A further grant has been provided to conduct more performances at schools promoting gender equality.

Young Women’s Leadership Network

Mahisha Balraj, youth activist ofHashtag Generation will organise leadership seminars for young women in Colombo University.

Gender and Performance

Ponni Arasu, theatre practitioner and Sarala Emmanual, gender activist, trained 15+ women performers from the North and East on using performance to create awareness on gender equality. A further grant has been provided to train more artists and activists in the North and East.

Celebrating Voices and Choices

Samitha Sugathimala of the foundation for Social Development worked with 200 women and 100 girls to support and advocate women’s leadership at the community level, they are publishing a book highlighting 60 stories of women and girls from Anuradhapura, Monaragala and Hambanthota to create an understanding of what leadership means.