73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Item 29: Advancement of Women
Statement by Ms. Shamilka Karunanayake, Youth Delegate
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
11 October 2018
Ayubowan, Wanakkam, Assalaamu alaykum and Good Afternoon.
We live in a very crucial day and age. While there are a number of women centric movements such as “Me too” and “He for she”, whether ‘women’ get a meaningful hearing from all stakeholders in the society is still questionable. Patriarchy is still very widely prevalent in all our societies. But Mr. Chairman, I have hope. I, a girl from the generation who has seen both war and peace have hope that we can end violence against women. I have hope that every baby boy in my country will grow up to respect women just the way they respect their mother.
The island nation of Sri Lanka with only a little more than 21 million people bears witness and is a proud land to have the world’s first woman Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1960, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth the amazing Jayathma Wickramanayake of Sri Lanka: a woman and even the first Sri Lankan to summit Mt. Everest Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala: a woman. Women in Sri Lanka have truly made us proud in all sectors be it sports, politics, entrepreneurship, art, science or even as a stay at home mother.
Regardless, Sri Lanka battles her many challenges on discrimination and violence against women.
The 30 year old war in my motherland, not only resulted in deaths, but it left many widowed women and parentless children. It resulted in creating a large number of female headed households. These women had to not only tackle economic obstacles of survival but had to face the social stigma of being a widowed woman or parentless child. Even years after the war ended, the hardships faced by conflict affected women have continued in terms of economic, physical and psychological trauma. These women who were once engaged in traditional domestic roles are now the sole bread winner of the household whilst doing chores and taking care of children. The Government of Sri Lanka in this regard has taken steps to work closely with the grassroot level civil society groups. They have implemented psycho-social wellbeing programs in the areas where the conflict was most prevalent. The Government of Sri Lanka has also introduced a counsellor to every divisional secretariat together with a women development officer to work more closely with the issues faced by women in their day today lives.
The Sri Lanka Women's Bureau and the National Committee on Women under the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs is working to create a society that understands, believes and practices gender sensitization. National commitments made by the Sri Lankan government on gender equality are constantly followed-up by civil society organisations which enables its realisation from paper to action.
The National Framework for women- headed households in post conflict Sri Lanka aims at improving the socio economic insecurities faced by women. Upon the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Sri Lanka is in the process of materializing and mainstreaming gender priorities and strategies. The Sri Lankan Government in the year 2017 also introduced a piece of legislation which guaranteed a minimum of 25% representation in local governments of Sri Lanka. A huge step towards giving that VOICE for the women in the governance of our country. So I have hope. I have hope that it will be a better day tomorrow.
If women are considered emotional...if women are considered sensitive that would only make them more powerful for she decides with her heart and mind together. Stereotyping women and equating a woman to weakness is a disgrace to what holds the continuity of human existence. The woman should be respected and empowered, not because they are superior, not because they are inferior but because they are human with the same beating heart just as a man has. And of course making the society a safe place for women is not the business of the government alone. It is the business of everyone, mine, yours and us all.
Mr. Chairman, let us all hope that it will be a brighter tomorrow.