EMPOWERING YOUTH TO CHAMPION WOMEN’S RIGHTS

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Sureniya, Sathyabaama and Dilani are three friends following a course in nursing at St. Anne’s Nurse Training Academy in Kotagala. On 27 August 2019, they joined with their classmates to take part in an art competition on barriers to women’s economic empowerment which was held at the District Secretariat in Nuwara Eliya. Divided into teams, the girls portrayed on canvas the issues faced by women. Their artwork depicted issues on early marriage, domestic violence and inaccessibility to higher education which are problems that are all too familiar to them. As young girls hailing from the estate sector, they live amidst communities where women who are the very ambassadors of the lush tea plantations, face so many issues and are trapped within a vicious circle of poverty.

Following the art competition, Sureniya and Sathyabaama were selected for a street drama which would be presented to rural communities in Nuwara Eliya. As it was their very first experience of a public performance, the girls were initially nervous and reluctant to take part. It was only once the first drama was enacted that they realised the importance of the role they played in bringing this street drama to the communities. The audience gathering to see their performance kept growing and they received a grand applause at its conclusion. With bated breath, the villagers watched attentively as the drama unravelled before them the harassment women face in their homes, in public and in their workplaces as well as the opportunities that are denied to females.

“We first attended a programme conducted by Save the Children, Oxfam and LEADS where they told us about the art competition that was to be held” explained Sureniya. “They told us that women face a number of issues and that from this day forward, we have the power to redress discrimination and abuse by expressing how they affect us.” Sathyabaama added, “women in our village too face a lot of problems like wife-beating. We depicted these issues in our entry for the art competition”. As participants in the street drama competition, these girls had more than just exposure to take home with them. “Our first performance was in Binoya and we were nervous as a huge crowd gathered to watch us” recalled Sureniya. “Though the crowd was loud at first, there was pin-drop silence when the drama began. After its conclusion, the villagers came up to us and thanked us for speaking out about the issues that take place in their homes which they are afraid to address. We are extremely happy that we received an opportunity to take this message to such communities.”

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