In December 2017, following the UK WOW Foundation’s Women of the World Festival founded by Jude Kelly, in Colombo, a breakfast wrap-up meeting was held to gather feedback and suggestions from women’s groups who participated in the festival on how the success and learning can be sustained. Out of this the British Council launched the ‘Voices & Choices’ Grants Scheme where anyone who participated at WOW could send in a project proposal. They could be a speaker, an artist, a stall owner, or an audience member. They just needed to have been inspired and have an idea they wanted to implement which will empower women & girls in Sri Lanka.
Our overall reach through all the grant activity was: digital – 615,557 ; community members – 9753 ; artists, gender and development professionals - 85 ; institutions/organisations – 30 ; websites – 313,969
Eight projects were seed-funded on the themes and issues arising from the Women Of the World festival:
This programme provided a platform for women inspired to implement their own gender equality initiatives using creativity, innovation or digital technology to create new narratives and fresh approaches to counter deep-rooted and long-standing negative perceptions and practices, while building the grantee’s capacity to address gender related challenges in a new form, organise community engagement events, increase their confidence and profile to access other related opportunities / partnerships or share best practice, knowledge and expertise with artists, development or other professionals working in the gender space, and advocate for gender equality through their work.
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.