Women Defining Peace in Sri Lanka

Women Defining Peace in Sri Lanka ended on June 30th, 2012

Violence against women is a way for some men to exert and maintain power in the home and community and is a widespread problem in Sri Lanka and around the world. Women and men have to work together to address issues of gender based violence (GVB). Women have to take the lead in promoting peace and development that benefits both sexes equally.

What We're Doing: 

The Women Defining Peace (WDP) project aimed to improve the condition and the status of Sri Lankan women by:

  • addressing and responding to the issues and root causes of gender based violence;
  • providing a forum for women across the country to meet, discuss and bring changes;
  • increasing women’s engagement and leadership in their community and politics;
  • supporting initiatives of local organizations that share the same goal.
What We're Learning: 

The project enhanced the conceptual knowledge needed to work on gender based violence issues through training and technical knowledge for key stakeholders. The project developed tools and methodologies that were relevant for understanding GBV in the Sri Lankan context.

From 2007 to 2012, in order to achieve the project goal, the project team (composed of women and men with different ethnic, language and geographic background) learned to be flexible and adapted to the rapidly changing context (post-tsunami, escalation of the armed conflict followed by cessation of hostilities, restricted access to some parts of the country, several elections, floods, etc.). 


Violence against women in many forms is widespread in Sri Lanka, and is inseparably linked to the inequality between women and men in the country. Societal issues coupled with Sri Lanka’s history of conflict and militarization contributed to the difficulties women face to live a life free of violence. 

A number of studies have been published on gendered violence experienced by women in Sri Lanka over the past years. They indicate a high incidence, particularly of domestic violence. Many of the studies are based on cases reported to the police, but these cases are only the tip of the iceberg since many incidents go unrecognized or unreported.

WDP used a framework as a guide to programming to prevent, reduce and ultimately eliminate gendered violence against women by taking into consideration the following areas:

  • The Recognition of the issue which could bring changes in understanding, acceptance, attitudes, beliefs and values relating to gendered violence against women;
  • The need for Resources which could bring changes in knowledge, skills, material and human resources to be able to take effective action for responding to and preventing gendered violence and promoting well-being between women and men;
  • The full realization of women’s Rights which could bring changes in the legal, political and civic structures and systems that have a responsibility to protect and promote the full rights of women;
  • The understanding of Power Relations which could bring changes in individuals/household level, community/society and state to create an equitable relation of power between women and men.

Peace means different things to different women in Sri Lanka. For some the idea of peace is confined to the household and the elimination of violence against women within the home; others see it as a continuum from home to the community and beyond. Through sub-projects implemented by Sri Lankan organizations, WDP achieved to a certain extent the following:

  • Increase women’s capacity to address rights and promote reconciliation at the community level;
  • Increase awareness of and support for women’s political participation by communities;
  • Increase evidence and analysis of women’s rights to strengthen advocacy. 


 The WDP project is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). It is jointly implemented by WUSC and Cowater International Inc.  

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