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International Women’s Day celebrated by Rotary

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By Safna Malik

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2018, Rotary Club of Colombo Mid City members organised an event titled ‘Celebration of Women in Rotary’ under the theme of ‘Press for Progress’ recently at Hilton Colombo.

Five eminent speakers; Gender Activist and Writer Sharanya Sekaram, Nation Trust Bank Former Chief Operation Officer, Gender Activist Keshini Jayawardena, District Governor RI 3220 Sri Lanka and Maldives Dr. Bandagiriye Somawansa Thero, Trustee of Sunera Foundation and Former Founder of Environmental Ltd., Sharmini Ratwatte, and International Finance Lawyer, Founding Trustee of Think Equal Aritha Wickramasinghe shared key insights to women empowerment and gender equalities. 

“What do we have to talk about on International Women’s Day in 2018, it’s a difficult conversation because we have almost achieved our freedom of choice to drive, to vote, to be a politician or to be a businesswoman but we still have conversations about women’s rights to access sexual and reproductive health and high level of sexual assault and rape that still take place in world,” remarked Eng. Editor for bakamoono.lk and Gender Activist Sharanya Sekaram at the occasion. 

Speaking of the website she stressed, bakamoono.lk site was connected with grassrooted.net in order to counsel young people on cyber extortions violence, such as exchange of nude photographs in online relationships used as blackmail or to pressurise eventually against the victim; the website also acts as factual information provider on Sri Lankan live reality in Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

Recently a Canadian based organisation has come up with violence and abuse prevention programs call ‘Sound Body Sound Curriculum’ in schools under the guidance of the Education Ministry. The programs for primary and secondary schools aim to reduce sexual and physical abuse and family violence by involving parents, teachers, students and school administrators in creating environments where children and youth are safe from violence. 

Sekram noted, “As an online counselling source we felt it’s important to support ‘Sound Body Sound Curriculum’ sexual and reproductive health program in Methodist College and St. Thomas College starting with Kindergarten students implementing age appropriate curriculums.” 

Stating that true empowerment of men and women was a choice, she questioned, “Does a man have the courage to say without society’s judgement, that fashion designing is what he was passionate about or either being a house husband? Do we empower women to stay at home because that’s the only choice available to a woman or is that we give options as adults within reasonable frameworks to make this decision?”

“It seems like we have two camps; men and women, because male part is driven away from such important conversation, we can’t have a social revolution and leave out 50% of the male population either way,” she added. 

District Governor RI 3220 Sri Lanka and Maldives Dr. Bandagiriye Somawansa Thero stated, “Most Sri Lankan women migrate out of the country to earn a high income as a choice left to maintain their families.” 

However, out of them, a few return to the motherland in coffins; government policy makers or social organisations for women’s rights should come forward to represent as a regulatory body. 

Highlighting that ‘women should be protected for her honour and dignity’, District Governor RI 3220 urged the Government to act fast for a resolution. Speaking of the economic opportunities, Trustee of Sunera Foundation and Former Founder of Environmental Ltd. Sharmini Ratwatte questioned, “Where do women play a role in economy?” 

She pointed out a recent study of McKinsey Global Institute that shows GDP in countries can be enhanced if initiatives made as much as 20% of women participation, over 30% of women participation can be seen in workforce up to date.

However supportive structures and policies are not been placed in the nation to stabilise the economy; it’s nothing more besides engaging more people in the economic generation. “It is not that only man can play a major role, the woman is also equally privileged,” she said, adding the fact relies on how society views women’s participation. 

Highlighting an international study that shows ‘men are more confident at work than women’, Nation Trust Bank Former Chief Operation Officer Keshini Jayawardena shared her insights on pressing for progress in closing the gender gap at the workplace and her experience in commercial banking industry for 30 years in Sri Lanka. 

Jayawardena opined, building self confidence towards young women at work with positive appreciative feedbacks and developing a feminine style of leadership on creating a supportive network to men and women in the workplace would impact to close gender gaps. 

The event was supported by Continental Insurance Lanka Ltd. as gold sponsor, Noritake Co. Ltd. as silver sponsor and Glow Collagen brand of Mega Lifesciences Ltd. as bronze sponsors. 

Pix by Ruwan Walpola


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