October 2023

Empowering Women Through WOICE

In the spirit of fostering inclusion and promoting women's empowerment, the Women Organized for Inclusion through Community Engagement (WOICE) project organized a series of meetings to bring together women leaders, state officials, former women Local Government Authority (LGA) members and women political leaders from the seven districts of Matara, Gampaha, Kegalle, Ratnapura, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and Monaragala.

One of objectives was engaging with state officials and former women LGA members to address the challenges faced by each district. The meetings were a microcosm of the communities they aimed to empower, from Ministry of Health officers and midwives to agricultural officers, development officers, Grama Niladaris, doctors, police officers, teachers, principals and zonal educational officers.

Ms. Disna Senanayake, a school principal from Matara, said that parents in her area were struggling to send their children to schools that were located far from their homes, resulting in financial strain and children dropping out. When she took over as principal, the school had only a handful of students and was on the brink of closure. Ms. Senanayake motivated parents to enroll their children in the local school and went on home visits to support children who had dropped out.

WOICE hosted sessions with women state officials and former women LGA members. Ms. Vimali Karunarathne from Nuwara Eliya, said, "Democracy will only be achieved when policies and laws are decided by both men and women with equal regard for the interests and aptitudes of both halves of the population."

Ms. Karunarathne stressed that women's involvement in government decision making went beyond advocating for women's rights and extended to other issues such as addressing violence against women. Her advocacy for gender equality in politics demonstrated that women's leadership can drive real change.