News

Just show up!

10 December 2020

This is the story of Dr. Nisha Fernando, OPD Doctor, Mithuru Piyasa

 

Previously an OPD doctor, Nisha’s heart was struck with joy when she was asked to get involved in conducting field research for suitable locations where Sri Lanka’s first Government operated safe haven for women could be established. This research opportunity gave Dr. Nisha a mix of emotions from witnessing many a case of gender-based violence (GBV) to not being able to assist those who are stuck in a cycle of violence. “I have been here at the Mithuru Piyasa – which is a GBV help centre based at hospitals around Sri Lanka – since its inception by UNFPA, and I take comfort in knowing that over the last 8 years I have been able to help 1000s of women and girls eliminate violence from their lives, create a conducive and safe environment for children and happy homes to ensure a safer Sri Lanka for women and girls.”

But COVID-19 made things difficult. “I dealt with a range of cases during the COVID-19 lockdown, each serious in their own way. One of the cases that came my way was a pregnant lady who was kicked out of her own home with a four-year-old, by her husband. We took swift action to bring them to a hospital, conduct a PCR test, and transport them to a safe house in a separate district.  Another case brought to my attention by the child rights protection officer was a close call. He had heard the screams for help from a 14-year-old boy witnessing his mother preparing to hang herself. I even counseled 6 families where abuse was a daily practice.” She highlights the need to communicate with children so they in turn don’t resort to violence.

The Mithuru Piyasa has been taking a holistic approach regarding the victim’s treatment and the way forward once they have recovered. Depending on the situation during counselling, we also refer the victims/survivors towards the Legal Aid Commission, a probation officer, a child’s rights protection officer, and other related services while looking into their recovery process.

During COVID-19, Dr. Nisha worked around the clock to attend to calls from women stuck in lockdown with their abusers. “My husband would often check if I had the hotline linked phone with me so I never miss any calls. As a fellow doctor, he understands the seriousness of the work I do. I’d like to encourage other frontline workers like me to understand the impact of the essential service we provide, and to show up now more than ever.”

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UNFPA works with the Government of Sri Lanka and other key stakeholders to ensure zero unmet need for contraception; zero preventable maternal deaths; and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices.

As we head into a period of 16 days of activism against GBV from 25 November to 10 December, this year we want to draw special focus on the many frontline health workers and service providers like Nisha who strive to create a safer world for all despite COVID-19. Together, let’s take action to shed a light on this shadow pandemic. Let’s also call for action by policymakers across the world to prioritize this issue even amidst the pandemic because the world cannot prosper if a home is not safe for women and girls. This is an important part of our commitment to leaving no one behind.

 

 

If you or anyone you know is in need of help, reach out to organisations that can support you. They will treat all information confidentially. 

  • Women in Need helpline - 0114718585 /  0777349100
  • Women's Help Line - Ministry of Women and Child Affairs - 1938