It is not uncommon for a Sri Lankan mother, sister, daughter or wife to undergo harassment in public spaces and live through domestic abuse in silence. Surveys show that only 4% of women in Sri Lanka come forward to report such incidents of harassment due to the societal taboo against this issue. With the aim of combatting against this silent suffering faced by thousands of women in all parts of the island, LEADS helped organise a campaign in Nuwara Eliya to encourage women to speak up against abuse and harassment. This campaign, which was funded by the European Union, led by Oxfam Sri Lanka and partnered by Save the Children and LEADS, was held on International Women’s Day, in March 2019. Female representatives of women’s societies, Women Development Officers, representatives from the office of the Government Agent and female police officers marched alongside their male counterparts in a walk against the silent suffering that women live through. The campaign took to the streets of Nuwara Eliya with posters and stickers carrying the message of speaking up against harassment and gender-based violence. The Government Agent, the Sri Lanka Police and the local transportation services gave their fullest support towards this campaign. Stickers informing the public on women’s right to live without facing harassment were pasted in public spaces such as buses.
Among the women marching on the streets was a female representative of a local women’s society. To this lady, the message she was lobbying for was a message that was close to her heart. For years, she had suffered in silence at the hand of an abusive husband and the scars and memories of the years of abuse still remain on her face and in her heart. “I lived through great difficulties and I am still not giving up on my fight for the sake of my children” she shared. “A woman is a mother and a friend. She has the strength to endure a great many things. I plead with everyone today to stand against the harassment of women!”