Yugashakthi – the social enterprise that promotes community empowerment – conducted its advocacy walk on the ‘Rights and Protection of Women and Children 2020’ on the 15th of February in Jaffna, with the participation of over 7000 people, 90% of whom were children. The Government Agent (GA) of Jaffna the Hon. N. Vethanayahan, the Counsel for New Zealand the Hon. Senaka Silva and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for Yugashakthi Mrs. Selina Prem Kumar joined the walk, which ended with the advocacy appeals for action in Tamil and Sinhala being handed over to the Government Agent the Hon. N. Vethanayahan by two children.
The advocacy walk began at Muttavelli and went up to the Duraiappa Stadium in Jaffna, culminating in an event; where the welcome address and the vote of thanks were both delivered by children, in Tamil and Sinhala. The walk drew attention to the importance of granting the rights of, and protecting, women and children. Women empowerment was especially a key area of focus for the campaign. It was pointed out that for families to be economically and socially secure, and for children to enjoy their right to a safe and secure childhood, the challenges faced by women need to be addressed first. Furthermore, in order for Child Protection and Empowerment to be sustained, women must be empowered.
Speaking on the initiative, CEO, Yugashakthi, Mrs. Selina Prem Kumar explained, “Our first advocacy walk was carried out 6 years ago, to emphasise the rights of children. However, as the enterprise worked on protecting children, it became clear that if mothers and women in the community are empowered, they are able to mitigate risks for children. A lot of women go through domestic violence and abuses, which they suffer in silence either out of fear or culture, and we have found that educating and empowering them is a challenge unless their rights and protection are addressed first. It was clear to us that in order for child protection and empowerment to be sustained, women must be empowered. This was the beginning of the present campaign which advocates and creates awareness on “Rights and Protection of Women and Children.”
The petition handed over to the Government Agent calls upon the authorities to ensure continuous education from school level, to explain gender, gender differences and early education; provide more cultural and religious participation for women and children in order to prevent exploitation; take all possible actions against illicit drugs; educate people on laws and processes governing the protection of children and women; improve the judicial process in cases involving victimized women and children, including the use of technology, to avoid further psychological trauma; reduce the time taken to hear cases involving women and children and uphold the law on behalf of them; and, immediately investigate the infringement of the rights of women and children and enforce the law against the perpetrators.
“Today is a different day, an important day. There is a tremendous event happening today with 7000 youth, women and children. I have to thank Yugashakthi and its management for carrying out such an activity in Jaffna to stop sexual harassment and exploitation of women and children and to raise awareness about protecting them from harm. This is a great initiative for raising awareness among people to stop violence against women, and to raise their voice to denounce violence against women,” the Government Agent of Jaffna, the Hon. N. Vethanayahan, stated during his speech to the gathering.
Yugashakthi is a social enterprise working with smallholder dairy farmers and vulnerable communities in the Northern, North Central and Eastern Provinces to uplift their livelihoods and quality of life. The enterprise strives to create socially conscious green businesses to ensure customer satisfaction. Partnering with customers, the organisation promotes equality, and ensures healthier communities through Love, Peace and Justice. More information on the company and videos of its work can be found on newly launched Yugashakthi website at www.yugashakthi.org