Renuka: A courageous Sri Lankan woman fighting for women’s rights

Reading Time: 5 min read

Renuka Bulugoda grew up in Sri Lanka’s central mountainous region and attended Ulapane Central College. After appearing for the General Certificate of Education ordinary-level examination, she became a part-time security officer in a private company. At 22, she married her husband, who has no permanent job (they now have a daughter and two sons). Renuka left her job to become self-employed on a full-time basis while starting up various activities, including making organic soap and detergent, to contribute to the family income.

When the Commonwealth of Learning’s (COL) partner, the Women’s Development Centre (WDC), came to her village to conduct an awareness programme on the Women & Girls Empowerment (EWG) project, they were recruiting for two volunteer equity facilitators. Renuka joined the project in this capacity, where she had the opportunity to participate in training held at WDC on a range of topics, including human and women’s rights, gender equality, sexual and reproductive health, women’s political participation and the existing legislation. She said that this training was a new experience for her.

“It would have been really important if we had known these things at a young age. I think that this knowledge should go to our husbands and the men and boys of our community,” she explained.

In addition to these topics, the project also focused on self-employment training and women’s entrepreneurship development. Renuka participated in detergent preparation training, and soon after, she started her own business as a micro-level entrepreneur.

She stated, “Now I am enjoying my rights to participate in economic activities as I wish. This was a struggle for me for a long time; I also know how to encourage and support other women and girls in my community.”

As an equality facilitator, she also became the first person to conduct the training offered by WDC at the village level. As she continued to educate the community, she received threatening anonymous phone calls. But she did not waver and actively contributed to the 16-day activism against GBV 2023. It also did not stop her from participating in the Human Rights Day commemoration, parade and events along with many other women.

“What I have gained from the Empowering Women & Girls Project supported by COL is priceless. I am improving and helping others to improve as well.”

With funding from Global Affairs Canada, COL initiated EWP with the aim of improving the realisation of human rights for women and girls from disadvantaged communities in selected areas of five Commonwealth member states – Bangladesh, Malawi, Mozambique, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

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