In April 2012, I arrived in Sri Lanka during the Sinhalese and Tamil New Year celebrations. Over the following month, I travelled from Colombo to Batticaloa in the east, to Jaffna in the north, to Puttalam in the north-west and to Udadumbara in the Central Province. I spent time with people who campaigned for womens rights and supported communities that had been neglected by their government. I met many individuals that work fearlessly with grass routes organisations in a variety of contexts, from the post-war situation in the north, post-tsunami in the east, to campaigning for women's mental health in remote parts of the country. I had the privilege to meet with some awe-inspiring women working quietly and constantly for the people in their communities.
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In the village of Navalady, between the Bay of Bengal and the Batticaloa Lagoons. The only evidence that a thriving community once called this home are the foundations of houses and the water wells. These were the only structures that were not uprooted from the ground by the waves. There are a handful of two-story houses that have been re- built, but most people are still afraid to return.
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Co- founder of Suriya Women's Development Centre in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka and lecturer at the Eastern University. SWDC was established in 1991 with the objective of working with women and children displaced by conflict. The photograph was taken in the sitters garden in Batticaloa, April 2012.
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Kallady Beach, Batticaloa.
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A thunderstorm approaches over the Batticaloa lagoon and Kallady Bridge.
These lagoons were once fired across during the war, the Sri Lankan military from the town and the LTTE in the villages.
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Co- Founder of Nest, an independent, community based NGO in Sri Lanka. Photograph taken at the sitters home in Colombo.
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Director of International Relations at The Mahatma Gandhi Institute and writer. Photograph taken at the sitters home in Colombo.
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A shop keeper in Colombo.
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Children take a break from lessons at a school situated high up in the Knuckles Mountain Range.
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Watching the New Year celebrations, Colombo.
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Three sisters that run a small women’s centre in Puttalam, in the North West Province.
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A meeting with The National Peace Council and local religious leaders to discuss the progress of a new locally initiated language school.
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Venerable Buddiyagama Chandraratatana.
A Buddhist Priest in Putlam, Sri Lanka who is involved in the support of a language programme to encourage communication between people of different religions. The photograph was taken after a meeting between local religious leaders and The National Peace Council.
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A family run jewelry business in the centre of Puttalam.
In October 1990, The LTTE announced that the Muslim community of Jaffna Penisula, in the Northern Privince had 24 hours to leave their homes. Many of the displaced Muslim community settled in Puttalam. This was the largest forced eviction of Muslims during Sri Lankas civil war. Researchers estimate that close to 75,000 people were forced to leave without any of their belongings, land deeds or money totaling more that US$2.25.
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A volunteer makes roti in a community centre kitchen high up in The Knuckles Mountains.
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Priyantha Gunasinghe, the general manager of a community centre holds mushrooms that are grown in the garden shed, named The Mushroom Project. The charity run centre provides support to isolated communities by giving them the training to grow their own food.
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Pet cats at a community centre.
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Waiting at the front door, near Udadumbara.
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Udadumbara, The Knuckles Mountain Range.
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Saturday school games in the mountains of the Central Province.
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Boys wait for instructions at school. Udadumbara, The Knuckles Mountain Range.
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The playgroup superviser at a community centre. The photograph was taken on the veranda of the centre in Udadumbara, a small town situated high up in The Knuckles Range in the Central Province.
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Mr Nirojan, volunteer at one of Nest's community centre's. The photograph was taken on the veranda of the centre in Udadumbara, a small town situated high up in The Knuckles Range in the Central Province.
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Mr Laksman, a volunteer at one of Nest's community centre's. The photograph was taken on the veranda of the centre in Udadumbara, a small town situated high up in The Knuckles Range in the Central Province.
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Monika, a volunteer at one of Nest's community centre's. The photograph was taken on the veranda of the centre in Udadumbara, a small town situated high up in The Knuckles Range in the Central Province.
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A farmer tends to his land in The Central Province.
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The Central Province.
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The Halfway Home Mulleriyawa is a place where women with mental health issues are cared for. The patients have mostly been abandoned by their families who cannot care for them. There are 475 women residing in the hospital. When it was first discovered, mostly abandoned, in 1984 the hospital had 1300 women and was called ‘Unit 2’.
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In 2005, a charity called Nest was given a dilapidated ward at the hospital to turn in to an occupational therapy centre. The women are encouraged to engage in activities such as dancing, cooking, painting and sewing.
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Mental Health has become less of a stigma in Sri Lanka in the last two decades, thanks to a few dedicated people who took it upon themselves to campaign for the welfare of ‘Forgotten Women’ and raise awareness of mental health issues in the country.
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Stray cats sleep on the patient’s beds. There are still funding problems for the hospital and conditions could still be improved. There are many dedicated people who have been constantly campaigning for the welfare of the women at the hospital since 1984.