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Intimate partner violence

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The iconic Colombo Municipal Council building was illuminated in orange with messaging on the national women’s helpline and Mithuru Piyasa hotline to place a spotlight on intimate partner violence and encourage more women to seek help.

The illumination organised by UNFPA in collaboration with the Colombo Municipal Council and the High Commission of Canada, launched the 16 days of global activism against gender-based violence in Sri Lanka with a focus on intimate partner violence. The intervention is the culmination of a trilingual national media campaign on intimate partner violence highlighting evidence from the Women’s Wellbeing Survey (WWS), Sri Lanka’s first national survey on women and girls.

Many women who experienced sexual violence by a partner did not seek formal help anywhere.

 Encouraging more victims to seek help and ensuring support systems are available and accessibility is essential for the recovery and prevention of violence against women and girls in Sri Lanka.

Speaking on the importance of collective action to end intimate partner violence Colombo Mayor, Rosy Senanayake, “Violence against women can happen to anyone, anywhere so it is vital that we talk about this issue widely. She said she was happy to be collaborating yet again with UNFPA to raise awareness on this very pertinent issue.”

The 2019 Well Being survey found one in four 24.9 cent women have experienced physical and sexual violence since age 15 by a partner or non partner.

Intimate partner violence is the most common form of sexual violence impacting millions of women worldwide Covid 19 lockdown and travel restriction have disrupted women’s access to life saving sexual and reproductive wealth sciences.

Physical, sexual or psychological harm by a partner is a major factor in maternal and reproductive health of mothers and newborns pointed out the 2019 Women’s Wellbeing survey.

For example, women suffering from intimate partner violence are less likely to use or even have a say in using contraception which would lead to unplanned pregnancies.

The Survey found that one in five (20.4%) women in Sri Lanka have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner. The survey also found that women who experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner had contemplated suicide; highlighting the serious repercussions violence has on the lives of women and girls.

Highlighting the importance of policies that take the evidence of the WWS into account Mr. Daniel Joly, Counsellor and Head of Development Cooperation, High Commission of Canada in Sri Lanka stated “The Government of Canada is committed to supporting Sri Lanka and several other countries to end all forms of violence. it has been a long journey but I am pleased to see the results of the WWS we supported come to light today in the form of crucial evidence. Surveys like this are on essential building block in working towards ending all forms of violence against women and girls.”

UNFPA will continue advocating with its partners beyond the 16 days to encourage collective action to take the message of 16 days of advocacy forward to different audiences in Sri Lanka for a world free of gender-based violence and harmful practices towards women and girls ahead of the 2030 Agenda.

Women in Sri Lanka are oppressed under represented and harassed, even in the sanctity of their homes is a sad story.

To raise this awareness the UNFPA in Sri Lanka partnered with Sri Lanka Medical Association to organise a panel discuss on “The impact of gender violence”.

Sri Lanka is a country that prides itself for its rich cultural heritage and values. Our social ethos are highly recognised by many. However, amidst the vibrant, rich culture this ugly truth lurks in the background, the fact that Women in Sri Lanka are oppressed under represented and harassed, even in the sanctity of their homes is a sad story.

The surveys results were made public recently in a special event heralding the start of 16 days of activism with a call to end intimate partner violence. Needless to say, this all occurred during a period of time when attention towards the injustice women face was hot on people’s minds, where the uncouth. harassing remarks of a Parliament minister towards a female minister of Parliament faced little to no repercussions after refusing to apologise for his conduct, and the news of the Kinniya bridge tragedy was fresh in people’s minds as well.

One only needs to look back to the various news reports of this year to recall a number of other heinous acts inflicted upon women in Sri Lanka; one such being the beheading and dismemberment of a young woman whose remains were discovered in a discarded suitcase, the culprit a Policeman nonetheless.

As such it is clear that Sri Lanka does indeed have a problem with how its people treat the women around them, with men usually being the guilty party

Although such reports alluded to a major societal issue, there had never been concrete proof of how widespread the issue of how Sri Lankan women are treated .However, where there is smoke, there is fire and in this case, a blazing inferno – putting into question how Sri Lankan women are truly treated, even in their own homes.

Although a home should evoke feelings of safety and security, of love and freedom, that is not the reality for one in five women in Sri Lanka, who have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, and that women in Sri Lanka are more than twice as likely to have experienced physical violence at the hands of a partner than by another.

Additionally, two in five women in Sri Lanka have experienced physical, sexual, emotional and/or economic violence, and/or controlling behaviour by a partner in their lifetime, revealing the sad truth that for many women in our

country, their homes are not in fact safe havens, or escapes from the evils of the world. For many, the danger lies within, at the hands of the person she shares her life with.

The danger has only increased with the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns, which locked their victims in (more often than not) with their aggressors, with no means of escape for months on end.

Needless to say, the violence, aggression, and controlling behaviour imposed upon women in Sri Lanka have far-reaching consequences, ones that could even be seen and identified from generation to generation.

In fact, the children of parents who are in an abusive relationship are found to be more likely to drop-out of school, and it was also discovered that such children are more likely to grow up and become aggressors or victims as adults, according to the findings of the survey

Global evidence also shows children who have experienced or witnessed violence at home are more likely to become either perpetrators or victims of SGBV We must stop this vicious cycle.

Violence against women and girls continues to plague women in Sri Lanka and across the world, but this year COVID-19 has fanned the flames and this is the reason to highlight it now more than ever.

The pandemic’s long-term socio-economic effect may make the road steeper, but the joint efforts must continue.



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Giving Sri Lankan street dogs love, respect and a home

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by Zanita Careem

An epitome of courage and wisdom, she is one of the top entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka, founder of Sri Lanka’s most stylish department where she served as Managing Director. Otara Gunawardena is truly inspirational.

She has earned many awards and notched several achievements. She was awarded the best female entrepreneur award at the Seventh US Stevie awards for Women in Business and 2018 Women of the Year Award by Women in Management (WIM).

Embark has become a popular brand. How do you account for it, its beginnings and its progress?

“Back in 2007, pedigreed dogs were popularly in demand but there were countless street dogs who needed care and love. Many of them were abused and unwanted. I wanted to change their circumstance and initiated Embark with the dream of providing a better life for our Sri Lanka’s street dogs and to give them the love, respect and the home they deserve.

“The brand was set up so that the profits would support the work we do with street dogs. It was also meant to help people to live a lifestyle supporting the cause and being ambassadors for the dogs with the clothing they wear. Most of the T- shirts have slogans conveying a positive message about street dogs in a fun way and many items became popular fashion statements.”

Explain the concept behind embark and the advocacy campaign for the welfare of homeless dogs?

“The concept was to make the street dog fashionable to own. And we have succeeded in doing so as more than 6,000 street pups have been re-homed, more than 60,000 vaccinated and sterilized throughout the island. Close to 35,000 plus street dogs have been rescued and treated over the last 15 years. Many people also now do their own rescues and adoptions.

“Embark mainly provides free medical treatment for sick and injured street dogs, the majority without owners. We also help find homes for pups who are abandoned on the streets. Besides the direct rescues we do there is also a foster network who rescues these pups, looks after them temporarily whilst we provide the required medical care – vaccinations, de-worming etc. and bring them to our monthly adoption programs where they find forever homes. We carried out many sterilization programs throughout the country and ensure there is population control within the street dog population in Sri Lanka. We also have a free medical clinic weekly at our head office in Colombo where we provide vaccinations, treatments and sterilizations for street/ adopted dogs.

What is your main focus in initiating this project?

“As explained previously, the main reason behind Embark is to give our Sri Lankan street dogs the love, respect and most of all the home that they deserve.”

Don’t you ever find the work you’re doing depressing and do you find any changes for the better?

“Sadly, the situation is quite dire in Sri Lanka but it has definitely improved from the past. There is now a no kill policy and sometimes there are programs of vaccination and sterilization implemented but unfortunately not done well. There is a lot more awareness and concern with people now against cruelty and also many more helping stray animals than before. However, there is still a lot of cruelty to elephants, an increase in terrible pet shops which are filled with suffering animals, cruel pedigree breeding, inhuman zoos, animals suffering in captivity etc.

“Lack of laws is a big issue too, something that has not changed despite many governments that have come and gone. It can be quite depressing to be aware of the cruelty and see it daily in a country such as ours where the need for compassion is stressed. We just do what we can each day to make a positive difference in the current situation.”

What has been the highlight of setting up Embark?

“Well, there are many, but I can say it has been rewarding to see a paralysed dog walk again, a dog who was severely ill recover and a rescued pup finding their forever home and living the best possible life. These may seem small achievements but they are close to my heart and I am glad I am able to help these amazing beings recover and live a good life. “

What are your programs to improve and protect animals and the environment in Sri Lanka?

“Embark under, Otara Foundation has been working on improving the lives of street dogs throughout the country, conducting rescue and re-homing initiatives whilst managing the canine population and preventing rabies through sterilization and vaccination programs across the country. Most of the rescues and treating of the injured are focused in the Western Province, but we do try our best to reach as best as we can in other areas.

“Embark has been at the forefront influencing policy in relation to animals and playing a vital role in making a significant change in the lives of animals and people alike.

“The Otara Foundation works with its accredited partners to promote large and medium-scale reforestation projects in the country. In addition, because it is the Foundation’s mandate that all life matters and every little effort is a step in the right direction, we support and promote smaller individual initiatives in reforestation and replanting. I personally advocate a better life for animals, speak out on behalf of the animals and participate in awareness.”

Any drawbacks?

“I can only look at the change I have been able to make for animals and the environment and be grateful for what’s been achieved. The drawbacks are knowing how much more we need to do and can be done if there was conscious caring leadership as a lot of bigger change has to be initiated from the top.”

How does it feel being a female entrepreneur?

“It has been a challenging yet enjoyable journey. I am happy to have been able to change the direction of retail and fashion in Sri Lanka and to give a lot more women hope to follow their dreams and be who they want to be.”

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Understanding fibroids

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Uterine myomas, commonly called fibroids, are very common in South Asian and African women. However, the risk of them turning malignant or cancerous is very rare. In an interview with the Sunday Island, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and Senior Lecturer in Obstetrics and Gynaecology from the Kotelawala Defense University, Dr. Romanie Fernando throws light on the causes and treatment of fibroids which are found in 30% of Lankan women over 30 years.

by Randima Attygalle

Uterine fibroids are benign or non-cancerous muscular growths which could appear in the uterus (womb), uterine wall or on its surface. The uterine wall which is made of smooth muscle becomes harder as a result of fibroids. “There is a genetic pre-disposition involved in fibroids; South Asian and African women are at a higher risk of getting fibroids and why they are more pre-disposed is still unknown,” says Dr. Romanie Fernando.

Fibroids usually appear in women of reproductive age- generally between 30-40 years although in some, they could appear earlier than that. “They are very common, so much so, one in three Lankan women above 30 years will have fibroids. However, the risk of having a malignant change is very rare. Only less than 0.5% of uterine fibroids will have the risk of turning into cancer, hence women should not have unnecessary fears about them,” Dr. Fernando says.

Causes

Genetics and hormones largely influence fibroids and their growth. Estrogen and progesterone imbalance affect fibroid growth. When hormone production slows down during menopause, these fibroids usually shrink. “Family history, age and race are the other factors which could place a woman at a higher risk of developing them,” explains the obstetrician.

Symptoms

Symptoms depend on the size and site of the fibroid. Only about 30% of women with fibroids will have symptoms and the majority will be asymptomatic (not showing symptoms). “Some fibroids are so small and are of a size of a shirt button that they will go unnoticed and won’t cause any harm, while others grow in big masses and can affect the uterus and adjacent structures causing symptoms.”

If a fibroid is found inside the uterus or the uterine cavity, it could affect the menstrual cycle resulting in pain during menstruation, heavy periods and spotting (bleeding in between two cycles). “If a fibroid is found in a woman close to menopause and if it is not causing any menstrual or pressure symptoms, we usually wait until she reaches menopause without intervening because with low estrogen, the fibroids will naturally shrink.”

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is largely an incidental or accidental finding during a clinical examination. “During a routine pelvic exam a doctor may suspect fibroids if the shape of the uterus feels irregular or unusually large. Fibroids are also diagnosed during pregnancy when routine scans are done.”

Treatment

Treatment too depends on the age of the woman, size and site of the fibroid. The growth of most of the fibroids is very slow, usually about half a centimeter in two years, explains Dr. Fernando. “However, if the growth is very rapid within a short time, it could be worrying and we need to intervene to remove it.”

Although not a very common presentation, severe backache could also be a symptom of fibroids. “Some women with fibroids could also be anemic due to increased menstrual blood loss and in such instances, we address anemia as well.”

Fibroids are treated symptomatically. If a fibroid is found to be causing pain, heavy menstrual flow or pressure on other organs such as the bladder for example, (causing frequent urges to urinate or inability to control urine) investigations will be done to determine the best mode of treatment. “Treatment could be either with oral medication or surgery depending on the severity of each case.”

Fibroids and pregnancy

If fibroids larger than five centimeters are found in a woman before her pregnancy, they are usually surgically removed to avoid complications during pregnancy. During pregnancy, the blood supply to the womb is increased, hence removal of fibroids is very risky and is postponed until after the delivery. “After a pregnancy the hormone levels and the blood supply become less and the fibroids too tend to become smaller. There had been maternal deaths when trying to remove fibroids during cesarean operations because of the inability to control the heavy bleeding,” says the consultant.

Fibroids can cause foetal growth restrictions and premature labour in some women. The positioning of the baby could also be abnormal in some cases. “If the fibroid is found closer to the uterine cavity, there could be a higher risk of miscarrying and after normal delivery heavy bleeding (post-partum haemorrhage) is also common.

Types of surgery

There are many ways to treat fibroids. The treatment that works best for each woman will depend on symptoms, reproductive plans, age, and the site of fibroids in the womb. “In younger women with reproductive wishes (those who hope to get pregnant in future), we usually remove the fibroids with myomectomy. This type of surgery removes them while retaining the healthy tissue. Myomectomy could be performed in many ways from abdominal surgery to laparoscopy,” remarks Dr. Fernando.

Although several other non-surgical interventions including the latest high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) device which was developed for treating uterine fibroid and drugs to shrink fibroids are available in other parts of the world, locally we are still limited to treating fibroids surgically with myomectomy (removal of the fibroid) or hysterectomy (removal of the uterus), says the consultant.

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Vibrant hair colours and subtle make-up for 2022 –Ramani

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by Zanita Careem

As 2022 begins, the beauty boom continues. In this article Ramani Fernando takes a daring leap into the overarching themes set to trend 2022.

How we express ourselves through products, to progress in sustainability and inclusion across the country.

Ramani Fenando’s deep passion to beauty trends in hair, and engagement with, its growing enthusiastic followers continues to dominate the beauty scene in 2022.

A beacon for new trend beauty entrepreneurs will not be short of support and guidance helping to bring a growing number of mission driven beauty brands to life and scale. My passion became my career and that’s why I also say do what you love, you never know where it will lead.

Q: The past year has witnessed a significant shift to people who discover and indulge in beauty category, what your take on it.

I want to inspire people to understand that no matter what they look like, they are people. For me beauty is timeless. We want everyone to accept and love themselves for themselves and be comfortable in their own skin.

From being a beautician and handresser to becoming the founder of many Ramani Fernando salons I have come a long way. My name in the beauty industry is most recognizable, she gets candid about her passion,her salons, her favorite make up products and share words of encouragement for women entrepreneurs.

What do you think your brand Ramani Fernando salons is synonymous to?

I’d like to think that Ramani Fernando Salons has been a pioneering, inspirational and passionate brand with more than 45 years within the hair industry, having grown from a single unit into a large chain of salons around the country.

I wouldn’t want to compare my salons to other brands in the industry as each brand or individual has their own pioneers which makes them unique in their own way.

What kind of make up do you like?

Something I live by is “Less is More” I like subtle classic looks when it comes to bridal makeup, I feel elegance and simplicity are my focus.

Have you ever faced any crticism for your work?

Yes of course, I take it very seriously and in a positive manner as constructive criticism which I feel, we all need in our lives to learn and grow from.

Your words of encouragement for women who want to have identity of themselves?

“Each of us has unsuspected power to accomplish what we demand of ourselves.”

The new trends in hair styles, hair colour and hair cuts.

Hair Styles

Ten years ago, people were just styling hair and not thinking about the haircut underneath it.” It’s a way of approaching your hair that allows you to embrace all manner of trends, from embracing your natural curls to air drying your layers, and gives your hairstyle its unique character.

For a while now, we’ve favoured hairstyles which appear artfully undone, low maintenance and effortless, but many hairstylists are predicting a return to the old-school blow-dry and a more finessed approach to hair.

Hair Cuts

Undoubtedly the haircut of 2021, the bob is going nowhere for this year. But for young teenagers the bob remains at the forefront. There are so many new variations in the hair—changes in length, shape, volume and styling—for 2022

What do you think are the new make up trends this year?

Yet another popular type of makeup application is HD makeup. This makeup is done using regular brushes but products that contain pigments with light-diffusing coatings that blur the imperfections when light reflects onto them.

Mineral makeup is all about getting that natural finish with makeup that looks like your skin, but better. The products for this type of makeup style are made using compressed minerals and they don’t have any oil. This is generally the preferred makeup technique for oily skin types, but with the rightful application can work fabulously for any skin type.

The signature products that will dominate the skin industry.

There are many products that I consider as signature products for skin car, some of the more dominant ingredients, like niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, salicylic acid (to name a few) focusing on creating healthy moisturized, blemish free, pigment free and glowing skin.

Any hair colour that will dominate the young teenagers.

At the moment we see many teenagers coming in to the salon asking for many vibrant colours like blues, greens, purples and pinks.

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