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March 28, 2023

Say No Together – Collaborative Advocacy Against GBV

Last Updated on December 3, 2022 by Desman Chathuranga

Although there is a lot of awareness on sexual and gender based violence in recent years, it still
remains a pervasive issue in Sri Lanka. Research indicates that the “silent pandemic” following the
outbreak of COVID-19 was a horrifying rise in gender based violence.

It is in this context that this year the United Nations is basing their campaign on Gender Based
Violence on the theme “UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls”. Inspired by this
theme, an exhibition features a collective of voices, efforts and educational material by over 35
NGOs, civil service organisations and individuals representing Sri Lanka’s Women’s Rights
movements, coming together to focus attention on the effort to prevent and end intersecting forms
of harm towards women and girls. This showcase event takes place at the Independence Arcade
premises in Colombo 07.

It takes the form of unique 10-day exhibition from the 1st to 10th of December, inside two
converted containers that will be transformed into spaces for a gallery of exhibits, live sessions,
performances and forums on the theme of ending gender based violence. ‘Say No Together’ will also
be supported by a social media campaign which was launch to coincide with the 16 days of activism
to end gender based violence, on the 25th of November.

“Bringing multiple actors together in one voice is vital for accelerating the impact of our cause”, says
Advocacy & Communications Consultant Shanuki de Alwis, who is also the curator and producer of
the event. “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 says.

Collaborators include both large and small national gender rights organisations, from Women In
Need, the Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka, Center for Equality & Justice and Yeheliya
Foundation, to performing groups like Mind Adventures and Prajadiriya Padanama, amongst many

Two of the event’s collaborators- The Child Protection Force and Emerge Lanka, will unite on one of
the 10 days to facilitate a full day of awareness on how to prevent child sexual abuse. Issuing a joint
statement, they explained that a community empowered with knowledge is key to detering
childhood sexual abuse and 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,” they
said, adding 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.”

The exhibition covers a wide range of themes on gender based violence. Speaking about her
motivation to join the project by exhibiting some of her creative work, poet, legal researcher and
advocate Grace Wickremasinghe explained that since gender based violence is an issue which is
rampant in society due to many complications stemming from Sri Lanka’s cultural and legal
backdrop, hopes that her participation will help promote solidarity. “I’m honored to be a part of this
movement to contribute my spoken word poetry to create awareness on GBV and spread a message
of solidarity amongst survivors of violence,” she says.

Say No Together is held from December 1-10 at Independence Arcade. The event space is
open from 2pm – 8pm on weekdays and from 12 noon – 8pm on weekends.

This initiative has been made possible by the program Strengthening Social Cohesion and Peace
(SCOPE) co-financed by the European Union and German Federal Foreign Office. To find out more
follow scope.srilanka on Facebook and Instagram.