More than 240 participants attended the seminar including religious leaders, government officers and community leaders connected to the estate sector. Sessions on the international and domestic legal framework on child rights and parental and social responsibility for child protection were delivered by resource persons from LEADS, an organisation working on child rights. Topics discussed included prevention of child abuse and child labour and actions to prevent them, and institutions and mechanisms for child protection.
The meeting ended with a resolution on how to improve existing mechanism to ensure the protection of child rights. The resolution was ratified by the participants and it will be later signed by the 17 DIRC coordinators and presented to government officials and private institutions.
“I contacted two government officials who directly work with children in the estate sector in Awisawella. They said that they learnt a lot from the programme and that they hope to use the knowledge they learnt in their duties,” said Sumithra Sirimanna from Colombo DIRC. She suggested the participants of the seminar should be focal points to organize future programmes as well as building the capacity of the participants.
“It was a very good programme. Young girls speak of their misfortunes to parents, teachers and community leaders but they are not allowed to take any action and are often forced to drop the issue.
It is important to create a mechanism for them to get,” said Sathis Kumar from Deniyaya. Also under the PACT project, a National Inter Religious Committee (NIRC) meeting was held through Zoom with the participation of more than 150 religious leaders and civil society activists to show solidarity to victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday terrorist attacks and to pay tribute to the Christian leaders for the calming role they played.
The main demand from the Christian community was to ensure justice to the victims of the attacks, not only by punishing the perpetrators but also to reveal the truth behind who was responsible for planning and funding it.
The government appointed a Commission to investigate the evidence and come up with recommendations, which should be implemented. The meeting ended with the discussion of the first draft of a resolution consisting of 15 recommendations to be presented to government authorities and institutions on the way forward to achieve justice for the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks and what the NIRC could do.
“We could prepare a Petition to be signed by Buddhists, Hindus, Catholics and Muslim people at temples, kovils, churches and mosques so we can pressurise the Government and the President,” said Venerable Maharagama Uppalawanna Bhikkuni.