Robert Juhkam, Resident Representative, UNDP in Sri Lanka

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·      Honourable Minister Sabry, Hon MP Dr Amarasuriya, fellow esteemed panelists…

·      Ayubowan, Vanakam, Assalamu Alaikum, Good morning  


1.     Beginning 16days, I make clear UNDP SL is committed to urgently making a reality of gender equality, as a basic human right and necessity for a sustainable world!!


2.    UNDP is a proud partner of the GoSL, civil society and private sector and the Sri Lankan people, in the aspirations to deliver the SDG 2030 Agenda, the Vistas objectives for the benefit of Sri Lankan society, economy and precious island environment.


3.    And since gender equality is key to that, that is what UNDP focuses: 1) women’s economic and social empowerment 2) combatting sexual and gender-based violence,  and 3) raising  women voice and agency in decision making and political participation.


4.    All of this ALSO BY by working with men and boys


It is disturbing that SGBV appears to be most prevalent human rights abuse in world!

Half the planet’s population!!


What’s the evidence? What does available Data tell us?

It tells us that the culture of acceptance and impunity is endemic.


1.    Gender Social Norms Index (2020), produced by the (UNDP) found that 30% of women AND men interviewed across 75 countries agree that it is justifiable for a man to beat his partner. Shocking.


2.    Women’s Wellbeing Survey (2020, Department of Census and Statistics Sri Lanka): 35.3% of women in Sri Lanka agreed that men can have a good reason to hit their wife - 47.5% of women interviewed agreed with the statement that “a man should show he is the boss”, while 46.5% noted that “a good wife obeys her husband even if she disagrees”.


3.    Masculinities study 2013 conducted by CARE International Sri Lanka: 20% of men indicated they had committed some form of intimate partner violence in their lifetime out of which 66% felt that this was due to a sense of “entitlement”.


Illustrations of UNDP’s response to SGBV:

1.    One, the UNDP SL programme supports women who are often left behind:

‒        victim-survivors of SGBV

‒        widows

‒        women heads of households,

‒        women facing sexual bribery

‒        single, abandoned women,

‒        girls and boys in neglected vulnerable settings

‒        and men who are left behind in knowledge; need help changing understanding and mindset


2.     The GoSL multi-sectoral National Plan of Action to address SGBV, formulated and implemented by Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Child Development, also with support from UNDP and other DPs. This means a coordinated synergized approach to addressing SGBV in the country


3.    Technical support to update the National Shelter Guidelines (presently in draft stage) which includes incorporation of Covid-19 measures.


4.    And, related, Shelters’ emergency response to Covid 19 supported through assistance for food security and safety (including PPE provision) following a rapid needs assessment


5.     A Covid-19 Assessment of SGBV including domestic violence using data from available helplines was completed to better understand womens realities and inform public policy


Importantly, UNDP’s response includes work on men and masculinities

1.     Launched recently the Equal Partners Campaign with the MWCDand the MenEngage Allaince.

30 videos addressing power, decision making, patriarchy and gender stereo types and unconscious bias and gender roles and norms ascribed to men, women, girls and boys.


2.     B/c current norms and values limit opportunities; b/c decision making on one by another creates inequality and power imbalances


3.     PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: I support positive discrimination. Affirmative action. In my life, I have actually faced barriers in access to opps, as because I’m a male (believe or not), but I still strongly believe in Aff Action.!

But never have I faced harassment or, worse, violence just because I am a man. In our society there are many women and girls, who face limitations, exclusion and violence due to the fact of ‘being a woman’.


4.     Example: 35 years ago, at Univ. Take back the night. Joined women and men in Marches with candles to light up and take back the night so women can feel safe. Took that to create an internal realization of what women. Face, why not do the same in SL? Create campus spaces that are safe

What can men do?

1.     Value and respect your spouse

2.     Share responsibilities and care work at home

3.     Support women’s occupations and economic advancement

4.     Be appreciative: words, gestures

5.     Learn!! Create open dialogue and attitudinal change on addressing toxic masculinities

6.     Create space where voice of women and girls are heard on equal platforms with men and boys.

Recognizing the wellbeing of women and men, girls and boys is to be ensured, we need to put on the lens of ‘equal partnership’ in a new normal context where we build a better tomorrow and change our perceptions so we do not make the mistakes of the past that kept women & girls from realizing their full potential.

To sum, we all need to work:

1.     Empower women and girls by strengthening their voice and agency

2.     Address structural barriers of inequality (including legal reforms)

3.     Engage Men and Boys as advocates for gender equality: women need to do that too…help

4.     Challenge our own unconscious biases. When its cultural bias; change only comes from within.


Key recommendations of the Women’s Wellbeing Survey is to empower young women and girls to recognize their rights, and pursue a life free from violence, and partner with men and boys to advance gender equality and end violence against women

Impact of the Pandemic:

1.     Disproportionally affected women with an increase in unpaid domestic work and care burdens

2.     Economic disempowerment

3.     An exponential increase in sexual and gender-based violence



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