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Colombo, Sri Lanka, 30 September 2021: The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Sri Lanka in collaboration with the Colombo Institute of Research and Psychology (CIRP) recently launched a series of comprehensive online training modules for survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) residing and receiving supportive services from Safe Shelter Houses. These shelters are partly supported by the Women’s Bureau and a few civil society organizations and are located in several areas across Sri Lanka.

In the midst of the pandemic, anecdotal evidence suggests there has been a rise in SGBV cases due to lockdown and travel restrictions, further exacerbating existing inequalities for women and girls, resulting in an increasing demand for shelters. Even before COVID-19, SGBV has been one of the most common human rights violations globally. According to the Women Wellbeing Survey conducted by the Department of Census and Statistics, one in five (20.4%) ever partnered women in Sri Lanka have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime (2019). For these survivors of SGBV, Shelters act as temporary havens and provide the necessary physical, psychological and legal services that help women and young girls in their recovery.

The Rapid Assessment of the Vocational Training Needs, conducted among Shelters in Sri Lanka, indicated that although the shelter serves as a temporary home, a majority of the survivors stay on much longer till they are fully ready to reintegrate back into society. The Assessment also found that 97% of those in the shelters would like to receive more skill development training, which would be beneficial to them in creating a sustainable livelihood once they leave the shelter.

As such, under PROMISES - a UNFPA project funded by the Government of Japan - UNFPA recognized this need and commissioned CIRP, to develop a series of online training and skill-building modules.

Speaking about this, Navchaa Suren, Representative a.i of UNFPA in Sri Lanka stated, “Ending violence against women and girls is a top priority for UNFPA. In fact, any form of violence against a woman or a girl can have a serious impact not just on the individual but on the whole family and the society at large.  I am pleased that through this collaboration, women and girls who are survivors of SGBV can have the opportunity to recover and rebuild their lives through these training modules.”

Acknowledging these modules, Director of Women’s Bureau - Ms Champa Upasena stated, “The Safe Shelters operating under the Women's Bureau always strive to empower women not just to recover but also to rebuild themselves economically and socially. I am confident that these online modules will give the necessary knowledge and skills to the survivors of SGBV.”

The certified online courses consist of tailored modules that include basics to building a business, book-keeping and financial management, use of software for business operations and other components. The modules are tailored to educate survivors within the shelters on essential business skills and knowledge required to start their careers and be independent financially and emotionally.

Speaking about this, Mr Chathura Kotagama - Project Lead from CIRP stated, “CIRP considers the opportunity to work with UNFPA on this project as a privilege, and we appreciate the effort put forth by UNFPA and the Government of Japan in supporting the survivors of SGBV.

Capacity building in counselling and psychological services is the primary goal of CIRP. We are very happy for this opportunity to contribute to the uplifting of the lives of survivors of SGBV with UNFPA”.