Celebrating International Women’s Day 2024: Promoting Gender Inclusivity and Policy Making

Celebrating International Women’s Day 2024: Promoting Gender Inclusivity and Policy Making

International Women’s Day 2024, facilitated by the Faculty of Graduate Studies, took place at the FGS Auditorium on the 1st of March, 2024. The event was titled “Gender Inclusivity and Policy Making”. The Chief guest, Senior Professor (Chair) H. D. Karunaratne, the Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor A. A. Azeez, the dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, John Curtin Distinguished Emeritus Professor Suvendrini Perera, Dr Pradeep Peiris, the Head of the Department of Political Science, Faculty of Arts, Dr Sepali Kottegoda, the Director Programmes of the Women’s Economic Rights and Media, Ms Minoli P. Don, the Head of the Protection Unit, International Organisation for Migration, Ms Lihini Ratwatte, Gender Specialist of the United Nations Development Programme, Dr Pavithra Jayawardena, the Coordinator of the Postgraduate Diploma in Gender and Women’s Studies and many other academic staff members and students were present at the event.

The welcome address was delivered by Professor Azeez and he stressed the importance of celebrating International Women’s Day by honoring the achievements and contributions of women globally, as well as the progress in gender equality and recognition of the path that lies ahead. He spoke about the Master’s in Gender and Women’s Studies offered by the Faculty of Graduate Studies and its relevance to women’s studies and gender equality. Following that, the Vice Chancellor highlighted the growth in the number of women participating in education in Sri Lanka. Out of the 263,000 individuals who sat for the Advanced Level Examinations in 2023, the majority were women. Furthermore, within the University of Colombo, most faculties have a majority female enrollment. He emphasized the need to create formal opportunities for women to enter politics, entrepreneurship, and employment. Additionally, he mentioned that professional and technical education needs recognition and development to enable more women to gain skills and qualifications. Financial literacy, networking, and higher education are key aspects in improving the livelihoods of women and therefore require attention.

The keynote speech was delivered by Professor Suvendrini Perera on the topic of “Women and the Making and Unmaking of Borders.” She shed light on the situation of women and girls in Gaza amidst the ongoing crisis. Professor Perera also drew parallels between the ongoing war in Gaza and the Civil War that occurred in Sri Lanka, emphasizing how borders (physical, emotional, and geographical) can imply violence and anxiety. She shared a heartfelt poem written about the arrival of the Tampa – a ship carrying asylum seekers into Australia. Her work in this field and the knowledge she shared were of great interest and importance. Following Professor Perera’s speech, tokens of appreciation were given to both Professor Suvendrini Perera and the Vice Chancellor Professor Karunaratne.

An in-depth and eye-opening panel discussion then took place with Dr Peiris, Dr Kottegoda, Ms Minoli, and Ms Ratwatte. The discussion was facilitated by Dr Jayawardena and the main topics of discussion included the stereotypical roles of women, women in the context of migration, international and local organizations actively involved in the empowerment of women – their impact, sustainability, and localization projects, as well as the role of academics in gender equality and policy making, and unaddressed gender issues within the institution. The audience then asked questions to the panelists, and discussions ensued.

Next, student presentations of the ‘research on women in three minutes’ took place. The first up was Ms D. N. P. Amarasooriya with her research titled “She Rules with English“. Following her, Ms Kaumadi Jayaweera presented her research on “The Woman Narrator and the Examination of the Construction of the Gender Identity of Lady Whistledown“, followed by Ms K. M. R. Perera presenting her research on “The Role, Challenges, and Opportunities of Female Leadership in Trade Unions in Sri Lanka“. Mr K. T. C. Samaraweera then presented his research on the topic “Gender-Based Views towards Sexual Education among Young Adults in the Gampaha District of Sri Lanka“, and finally, research by Ms Grace Wickremesinghe was presented on “Marriage as a License to Rape: An Analysis of Marital Rape in Sri Lanka“.

Professor Suvendrini Perera was invited on stage to commend the research of the six students. The vote of thanks was delivered by Dr Jayawardena.