Monday, 7 March 2016, Colombo. In a post-war era, Sri Lanka has seen an increase in Female-Headed Households. Providing a platform of discussion, the Gender Theme Group of the United Nations in Sri Lanka organized a round table discussion which was held at the BMICH on the 3rd of March. The round table discussion, which was titled, ‘Empowering Female Headed Households in Sri Lanka’, was graced by the Minister of Women and Child Affairs, Hon. Chandrani Bandara, as the Chief Guest.
Addressing the gathering, Hon. Chandrani Bandara stated, “Research has shown that Female-Headed Households remain vulnerable to conditions of poverty, violence and social exclusion due to a lack of opportunities and access to services and means of uplifting their livelihoods.”
Also speaking at the event, the Chair of the UN Gender Theme Group and Representative of UNFPA Sri Lanka, Mr. Alain Sibenaler stated, “Based on census data, approximately 1 in 4 households are female headed. Interventions to meet the needs of this significant population need to be systematic, holistic and sustainable and must take into consideration livelihoods, safety, security, and reproductive health and rights.”
During the event, a report titled ‘Mapping of Socio-Economic Support Services to Female Headed Households in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka’ was presented by a Senior Research Professional for the Centre for Poverty Analysis, Ms Nayana Godamunne, highlighting the challenges faced by Female-Headed Households, the nature of current interventions and gaps in implementation. This was followed by a presentation made by Senior Research Professional for the Centre for Poverty Analysis, Dr. Vagisha Gunasekara, on a National Initiative for Empowering Female Headed Households. This report provides a number of recommendations to be adopted by the Government of Sri Lanka to empower Female Headed Households in Sri Lanka. Both reports were commissioned by the Gender Theme Group of the United Nations in Sri Lanka.
The presentations were followed by a round table discussion which was facilitated by Mr. Alain Sibenaler, and included a diverse and eminent panel of speakers: Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission for the Royal Norwegian Embassy, Mr. Knut Nyfløt, National Professional Officer for Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health of the World Health Organization, Dr. Nilmini Hemachandra, the Executive Director of the Viluthu Centre for Human Resource Development Ms. Aaranya Rajasingam, and the Senior Research Professionals for the Centre for Poverty Analysis, Ms. Nayana Godamunne, and Dr. Vagisha Gunasekara.
The discussion, which focused on the need for greater collaboration among state and non-state actors in empowering Female-Headed Households in Sri Lanka, brought together a cross-section of policy-makers, government officials, donors and civil society.