- Collaborative effort against gender-based violence ongoing at Independence Arcade
In an effort to raise awareness about gender-based violence in Sri Lanka, a collaborative effort is being made in the form of a 10-day exhibition titled “Say No Together” that is being held at Independence Arcade until 10 December.
The event is inspired by the United Nations’ campaign “Unite! Activism to end violence against women and girls”, and coincides with the 16 days of activism to end gender-based violence, which commenced on 25 November.
The “Say No Together” event space will be open from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and from 12 noon to 8 p.m. on weekends. The initiative has been made possible by the programme Strengthening Social Cohesion and Peace (SCOPE), and is co-financed by the EU and the German Federal Foreign Office.
Exhibit and performances
The showcase event consists of an all-day exhibition, as well as workshops, performances, and discussions. Last evening (6), for instance, i-Probono held a discussion on sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), which is referred to as a shadow pandemic that has been growing amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mind Adventures Theatre Company, which performed I Liked You on Monday (5), will perform Consent and Complicity tonight (7), while Enable Lanka Foundation will hold a discussion on disability and gender-based violence tomorrow.
“Access to justice, and dating violence” is the topic Yeheliya Foundation will focus on during its discussion on 9 December, and the event will conclude on 10 December with a workshop on preventing child sexual abuse, conducted by Emerge and the Child Protection Force.
Looking at the lineup of events, the collaborative nature of the event is clear. The organisers state that the exhibition features a collective of voices, efforts, and educational material by over 35 non-governmental organisations (NGOs), civil services organisations, and individuals representing the country’s women’s rights movements.
“Say No Together” Producer, Curator, and advocacy and communications consultant Shanuki de Alwis explained that bringing multiple actors together in one voice is vital for accelerating the impact of their cause.
“The best campaign efforts by smaller, local grassroots organisations and passionate activists often go unheard because they work in isolation and are challenged with a lack of funding and reach. Facilitating this kind of opportunity for collaboration with a number of different stakeholders in a single space amplifies their call for change,” she added.
Collaborators of the showcase event include organisations like Women In Need, the Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka, Centre for Equality and Justice, and Yeheliya Foundation, as well as performing groups like Mind Adventures and Prajadiriya Padanama.
Issuing a joint statement, event collaborators, The Child Protection Force and Emerge Lanka, who will be raising awareness on preventing child sexual abuse, explained that a community empowered with knowledge is key to detering childhood sexual abuse, adding that they hope to prevent the number of cases of sexual abuse as well as the impact for survivors through awareness.
“In Sri Lanka, where systems need so many changes to protect children, empowering communities to keep children safe is a practical way to protect them. We need to educate parents with practical support and knowledge, and we look forward to hosting knowledge-sharing sessions where we educate, support, and break down myths, to ensure parents and caregivers are empowered,” the statement read.
The two organisations added that parents who are aware of risk factors understand warning signs, and know what to do in moments where their children are threatened, thereby ensuring that their children are safe, and reducing the number of incidents of sexual abuse.
‘I Liked You’
The Morning Brunch had the opportunity to drop by the “Say No Together” exhibit on Monday (5), where the Mind Adventures Theatre Company was performing I Liked You. The performance, which was followed by a discussion among the performers as well as audience, looked at sexual bribery in Sri Lanka through the sharing of victim-survivor testimonies. The work was commissioned for the launch of a report on sexual bribery in Sri Lanka’s justice system by the Centre for Equality and Justice.
Following the performance, which consisted of five verbatim pieces, Mind Adventures Artistic Director Tracy Holsinger shared that only 2% of perpetrators are arrested in cases of sexual bribery. The performers and audience went on to highlight the “he said, she said” nature of such cases, the violence, shame, and abuse faced by victim-survivors when they do go to law enforcement, as well as the long-term impact of such incidents on one’s life and relationships.
Photos Krishan Kariyawasam