UNDP joins hands with the Government, UNWomen and the GBV Forum to promote women’s rights
UNDP in collaboration with UNWomen and the Sri Lanka GBV Forum, supported the Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Affairs to hold a policy dialogue on “Gender Based Violence and Women in Peace Building: Linking the National Human Rights Action Plan”
The event drew together over 100 participants, including several MPs, government officers, UN and NGO colleagues and representatives of women’s groups working in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
During the opening remarks, the UNFPA Representative, Alain Sibenaler, as Chair of the GBV Forum, used the opportunity to congratulate the 2013 N-PEACE Award winner Mrs. Thavakshri Charles Wijayaratnam. Each year, UNDP’s regional N-PEACE initiative recognizes the leadership role of women and peace advocates across the region, and Mrs. Wijayaratnam was among the 2013 winners selected through an online voting platform for her longstanding work to improve the lives of rural communities in Killinochchi.
The dialogue itself then focused on examining three specific areas under the Action Plan: Strengthening police women’s and children’s desks; implementation of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act; and, and protection of conflict-affected women. National partners shared updates on steps taken to date and space was provided for constructive discussion around remaining challenges and possible ways forward.
In terms of reinforcing local level protection mechanisms, the Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Affairs spoke about the newly created Women’s and Children’s Units at the local level, the new cadre of counsellors recruited to provide psycho-social support, and the sensitization that is taking place with police on issues including domestic violence, teenage pregnancy and trafficking. The Police also shared information on the steps being taken to increase the number of female police and Tamil speaking officers, and also noted the need to increase the number of shelter’s available for women victims of violence.
During the second panel on women in peacebuilding, the Government Agent for Batticaloa highlighted economic empowerment as a key priority for women, alongside protection. In talking about the work of the Parliamentary Women’s Caucus, Hon. Sudarshani Fernandopulle (M.P.) spoke about the need to encourage women to vote for women, and to promote strong women leaders, while Hon. Rosy Senanayake (M.P.), said that stronger lobbying was needed on women’s issues, and that the media should be used more effectively to put pressure on policy makers to address key issues such as trafficking, child malnutrition and female heads of household.
Throughout the dialogue there was active discussion, and contributions from community representatives reinforced the need to continue focusing on local level response mechanisms for GBV and domestic violence, whilst also addressing alcoholism and economic challenges linked to livelihoods and access to land.
The event concluded with agreement on a number of action points to be carried forward by Government, in collaboration with the UN and CSO partners. Included amongst these was a commitment to strengthen the links between the Police Women’s and Children’s desks and the Women’s and Children’s Units under the Divisional Secretariats, especially in terms of ensuring effective case management with victims of violence being given access to counselling and other support services. Additionally, it was agreed to look at opportunities for establishing more women’s shelters through government and civil society partnerships, and for civil society to support the Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Affairs in drafting the Policy on Widows.