Women’s Forum, Sri Lanka invited to partner with the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus
Follow-Up meeting held
State Minister for City Planning and Water Supply Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle, an Honoured Guest at the event ‘Action for Parity,’ held on 8 March, coinciding with the International Women’s Day, invited Women’s Forum, Sri Lanka, (WFSL) to partner with the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus (WPC) at the WFSL’s inaugural meeting.
Such partnerships fall within the jurisdiction of the WPC’s established category of Activities of the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus (WPC) which was first established with the sixth Parliament on 6 April 2006 and re-established in 2010.
The WPC is primarily for the purpose for all women Parliamentarians to work together on women’s issues devoid of political party differences. It is mainly focused on addressing and supporting policy action through legislative enactments. Dr. Fernandopulle is the Deputy Chairman of the Parliamentary Women’s Caucus. Dr. Fernandopulle further proposed Women’s Forum SL to take the leadership in lobbying the policy makers.
Women’s Forum, Sri Lanka, a group of women experts of diverse disciplines united by a common objective, espousing the empowerment of women, is a non-political group partnered by the Lanka Mahila Samiti, which has the widest network and is the longest serving women’s organisation.
Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle, appreciating the uniting of the women specialists, asserted that it was indeed heartening to note WFSL recognising the role of women in society and utilising their capabilities for socio-economic development and leadership. She welcomed the aims and the objectives of the WFSL that would also encompass a larger majority of the women in not only representing their issues through recommendations as Action Papers on Policy matters submitted to the Head of State and of the Govt. but creating an opportunity regularly for them to voice their opinion on issues through the “under one roof on one platform,” WFSL’s novel concept.
With international conventions/treaties party to or up for ratification by Sri Lanka and economic empowerment of women high on the WFSL agenda, it was apt that Deputy Foreign Minister, Dr. Harsha de Silva, was invited as an Honoured Guest to get his views and guidance on this score.
Guest Speaker at the WFSL inaugural meeting, Dr. Hala Jamal from Bahrain who spoke on economic empowerment, articulating her own success story in business, was a Delegate in the Women and Enterprise Development Group at the first-ever Women’s Forum held alongside CHOGM last year, at which Charnika Imbulana, the Founder and Convenor of the WFSL was also a Delegate representing the Royal Commonwealth Society, Sri Lanka, in addition to being a member of the Presidential Media delegation for CHOGM in Malta.
Charnika was slotted into the Political Women’s Empowerment Group, one of four Groups from which the Outcomes Document developed, that was deliberated on and handed over to the CHOGM;s Heads of State for Action.
Inspired by this methodology Charnika adopted a similar methodology for the WFSL’s implementation part – the first of its kind by any Women’s Group in Sri Lanka. The two main aims of the WFSL are also unique to Sri Lanka.
The WFSL consisting of a key group of professional women experts, specialists in their respective fields will firstly individually formulate Action Plans for policy action on diverse pressing women’s issues periodically for speedy Government action and to ensure accountability.
The Women’s Forum Sri Lanka inaugural key Group comprised Prof. Savitri Gunasekera, Dr. Hiranthi Wijemana, Dr. Swarna Jayaweera, Dr. Selvi Thiruchandran, Dr. Premila Senanayaka, Dr. Ramani Jayasundera, Prof. Ramani Jayathilaka, Jessima Ismail, Yvette Kahavita, Thileka Perera, Charnika Imbulana, Prema Ilapperume and Sarah Soysa.
The areas in which the Group has initially focused on are Personal Protection, Equality and Access to Justice, Education and Skills Development, Plantation Women, Women and Health, Migrant Women, Ageing Women and Women with Disabilities, Widowed women, Education for Reconciliation and Peace building, Women in Construction, Women and Rural development, Women and Media, Gender and Youth.
With the consensus of the WFSL Key Group, WFSL Convener Charnika handed over the first Action Plan on Personal Protection at the inaugural meeting to the State Minister. In the meantime WFSL’s aims, registering the participants representing the large number of women’s organisations and individuals supporting women’s empowerment, also got underway at the inaugural meeting. Thus two of WFSL’s Actions already commenced at the inauguration itself.
The next major aim, in addition to the individual proposed Action Plans of the experts in the field, is the Outcomes Document of the discussions among the wider spectrum of women participants at the future Forums, will be documented and those documented recommendations of such outcomes of the future Forums, will also be handed by the WFSL through Dr. Fernandopulle, after each such Forum held to handover to the Head of State, and of Government and of the Legislature.
From left: Dr. Hala Jamal from Baharain, WFSL Founder and Convenor Charnika Imbulana, Ranee Ratnayeke of A and A International Opticians (joined WFSL at the inauguration), Business and Professional Women (BPW) Malaysia Founder President Razila Hamsaand, Federation of Lesotho Women Entrepreneurs President and wife of the Minister of Home Affairs of Lesotho, Magdelene M. Rakuoane
Women’s Forum Sri Lanka, a brainchild of veteran journalist, media advisor, and author Charnika Imbulana with the novel slogan ‘Under one roof, on one platform’ working on the theme for 2016, ‘Action for Parity,’ will engage in the combined projects on women’s empowerment in the provinces with the Lanka Mahila Samiti women’s organisation.
Imbulana explained: “It was the unanimous choice of the Key Group to look to Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle as an Advocate to the WFSL, which she graciously obliged. The Action Plan documents will be periodically handed over to her, with her advice forwarded to the Head, of State and of the Government of the day and of the Legislature. WFSL will lobby for the contents of the Action Plans until its full implementation.”
A former International News and Women’s Editor of the country’s two leading private newspapers, Imbulana asserted Women’s Forum SL will not be merely for rhetoric but for practical action. The key Group is set to expand with more top professionals lined up to be included for the second meeting of the much larger participation expected at the WFSL already scheduled for June.
Imbulana called on all Sri Lankan women here and overseas to join, in keeping with this concept “under one roof on one platform” which is devoid of any racial, religious or political discrimination. WFSL will not pose a challenge or cause any rivalry to any other women’s organisation as representatives of such organisations and individual activists only make up the numbers within WFSL.
“The Kingsbury strongly believes in gender equality and General Manager Scott Mawhinney has taken impressive steps to not only enforce this among the staff but demonstrates his commitment by supporting also the efforts taken in this regard by the community. He decided to host and fully support the WFSL inaugural meeting with the endorsement of the management for which we humbly extend our gratitude.”
“Yvette Kahawite, of the WFSL Key Group, former President Women’s Chamber of Commerce and founder President of SAARC Women’s Chamber of Commerce, was a huge source of strength, support and guidance to see this event through. We are also very grateful to many other supporters, too numerous to name them individually, without whose collective team spirit, our endeavour would not have been possible,” said Imbulana.
The presence of the Commonwealth Business Women’s Network at the inaugural Women’s Forum SL meeting with its Director Arif Zaman actively participation in the Q&A session was indeed noteworthy. So were the positive comments on the WFSL initiative from Rohini De Silva based in New York, a former Deputy Director, Human Resources and Gender Advisor of UNICEF in Sri Lanka, and later in New York as a Consultant to the UN and thereafter as HR Consultant for UNFPA.
Imbulana responded to the questions posed ranging from a participant from Kegalle as well as one based in New York articulating the role of the WFSL and acknowledging the practical suggestions made and how they would be utilised in the WFSL future work.
All ladies who posed questions, Rohini De Silva from New York, Leela Dissanayake, former Women’s Bureau Director and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Supplementary Plantations, Mrs Chandra Jayasuriya, Engineer, Sri Lanka Telecom Contact Centre in Kegalle and Chitra Weddikara, Immediate Past President of the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects, and President of Women in Construction volunteered to assist the WFSL, at which time they were absorbed by WFSL to represent their respective areas in which they are located as key WFSL local and international Focal Points, respectively.
The WFSL thus catered to those from any village of Sri Lanka to those from powerful United States with ease, showing clearly the broad well outlined practical path the WFSL will take, in achieving their objectives.
“The fact that the Women’s Forum SL is initiating this concept from views to action on women’s empowerment encompassing the Village, District, and Provincial level attempting to reach even your nationals overseas is commendable. WFSL would eventually surely secure a global presence. That is a wide spectrum. That alone among many other vital envisaged steps in this endeavour calls for the attention of all women in Sri Lanka to contribute and be involved in this unique efforts and measures taken by WFSL towards the empowerment of women. This is in fact the step forward to any woman for their own empowerment.” quipped one foreign delegate present at the inauguration when asked for comments on the WFSL initiative.”
Operational strategy, modalities established for partnership between Parliamentary Women’s Caucus and WFSL at Follow-Up meeting
The modalities, guidelines and the operational stratergy on which the two entities, Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus (PWC) and Women’s Forum Sri Lanka (WFSL), will work together were successfully finalised with the latter responding positively to the invitation made to partner the PWC on the empowerment of women.
Deliberations on the already-submitted WFSL Action Plan on Personal Protection by Dr. Hiranthi Wijemane were also concluded successfully at this Follow-Up special meeting held specifically to discuss both areas at State Minister Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle’s Ministry office, three weeks after the WFSL inauguration on 30 March.
Dr. Hiranthi Wijemana, Charnika Imbulana, State Minister Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle and Thileka Perera in discussion