Championing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment within Language Rights

Second Networking meeting of the Language Sector GEWE Focal Points

The National Languages Division of the Ministry of Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government, in collaboration with NLEAP initiated the second networking meeting for the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Focal Points (GEWE Focal Points) of the Language Sector. Joining in the session facilitated by NLEAP Gender Specialist, Saama Rajakaruna, were the GEWE focal points from the National Languages Division, Official Languages Commission, Department of Official Languages and the National Institute of Language Education and Training.

As Chathuri Jayathileke of NLD, warmly welcoming the Focal Points highlighted, the networking session would provide the participants a regular forum to explore steps and activities they could take to effectively institutionalise and activate their roles within their respective organisations.

Quickly outlining the objectives for the meeting, Rajakaruna also shared how at the last networking meeting the discussions had revolved around the OLP implementation strategy, an introduction to the policy framework on promoting GEWE in the delivery of Language Rights and finally the Terms of Reference for the GEWE Focal Points. At the second networking meeting some of the key points were how to institutionalize the role of the Gender Focal Points, the online Gender Based Analysis Plus training tool, the dates for the in-person Gender-based Analysis Plus workshop, activities for Women’s Day, and areas to consider at the upcoming TEM.

The GEWE Focal Points were very appreciative of the GBA+ online training tool and were keen to explore how the tool could be disseminated amongst their co-workers, seeing it as a great tool for creating awareness about GEWE and GBA Plus.  It was agreed that the next couple of networking meetings would be chaired by NLD. The teams shared with each other some of the practical steps they had taken to institutionalize GEWE within their organizations. Letters confirming new roles within organisations, change of duties reflected in relevant documents, change of documents, databases and training to reflect a gender perspective, and steps to ensure sustainability of the role of Focal points were discussed.

Addressing the Focal Points, Additional Secretary to the National Languages Division, Anuradha Wijekoon, urged that the strategy for institutionalizing GEWE should promote a wholistic countrywide approach. Highlighting the importance of mainstreaming and disseminating awareness about GEWE to a larger audience,  he noted the importance of networking with the greater body of Gender Focal points within the public sector. He challenged the focal points with the question ‘How do we practice GEWE in our organisations?’, noting ‘If you want change you have to change from within and be an example of the change we are advocating for’.  Another area of interest for the Additional Secretary was the question of serving members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) community. He noted that the upcoming Technical Exchange Mission to Canada provided an opportunity to explore how Canada has addressed the area of LGBTQ so that these learnings could be assimilated within Sri Lanka.  Additional Secretary noted that public servants were entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring equality of service to all, regardless of gender identity or sexual preference.

Project Director of NLEAP, Michael Emblem addressing the Focal Points remarked how impressed he was with the level of engagement and commitment within the group. He assured the GEWE focal points of NLEAP’s continued technical support to build their capacity to institutionalize their roles within their organisations.

The meeting concluded with the decision that the next meeting of the focal points would be at the in- person GBA Plus training which was confirmed for the month of March.

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