Among the issues faced by women and girls in Sri Lanka are a high rate of domestic violence, sexual harassment, early marriage, early pregnancy and unemployment. This is especially true in marginalized communities that are below the poverty line, and with contributory problems such as drug and alcohol abuse.
British Council Sri Lanka wanted to address the issue of gender-based violence through a community approach. And so the project VAWG was conceived and co-created with our main collaborator civil society organisation Foundation for Innovative Social Development (FISD) and their implementing partners Jaffna Social Action Center (JSAC), Janathakshan as well as youth networks such as Hashtag Generation.
To date, the project has run for 18 months in Batticaloa, Hambanthota, Jaffna and Moneragala. We wanted to ensure women and girls have the skills, confidence and networks to contribute and benefit economically, socially and politically – and being free from the fear of violence is an important first step.
The project had three phases – capacity building, active engagement in communities and building connections for further intervention. The programme used our Active Citizens delivery model to help identify issues within communities and to challenge deeply held attitudes and beliefs. The interventions through community action projects and social media campaigns were designed to engage women, youth and men as allies. The project also aimed to strengthen the system with support services and service providers.
Linking to a national government objective was key in our view. This project contributes to achieving the objectives of the National Plan of Action (NPA), to address Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) of the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs and the Dry Zone Development. It has existed since 2016 and many organisations have contributed to the implementation process. We believe it is a collective responsibility to make sure that resources and capacities are developed to make the plan a reality.