That was a remote corner of Batticaloa district. Nobody scored 8As in O/Ls in that small village other than Sara. She became the talk of the town in that very night O/L results were released! She didn’t come from a well to do family, she was the eldest daughter of a petti shop owner. Her parents were not educated and they didn’t think much of their children’s’ education until the day Sara’s examination results were released! They were overwhelmed when neighbors wished their daughter for her achievement and promised her that they could support whatever way they could.
Sara wanted to become an engineer from the start and she registered herself in Maths stream. For the first year of A/Ls there was no other thoughts in her mind than topping in her A/Ls. She was the only Maths student from her village and she didn’t have much friends too. When she stepped into her second year of A/L one of Sara’s cousins came from foreign and he gifted Sara an android mobile phone. Since she had no friends at her village, she used to spend her leisure time on internet and finally she registered herself in Facebook! One day she received a request from a guy whose timeline were filled with pictures of different constructions! He told her that he was an engineer and they started to communicate via Facebook almost everyday. Sara took him as her mentor and eventually she became emotionally dependent on him, she started to share everything happens in her life with him. Knowing everything about her, he played his cards well and their relationship went to next level that they started to share private pictures!
When Sara realized that this was a horrible mistake, things had gone out of her hands. This guy emotionally blackmailed her to continue what they were doing. She was really scared that he would leak her pictures on internet and she couldn’t think of anyone with whom she could talk confidentially. Just 6 months before her A/L examinations, village heard this shocking news that Sara eloped with some random guy and nobody knew where she went! She came back to her parents after three months broken in every possible way.
This was one of the cases discussed by students of Eastern University in the Gender Based Violence(GBV) and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights(SRHR) workshop facilitated by UNFPA last week.
Students discussed various cases on GBV and SRHR which they heard in recent times and try to understand them by analysing the views of victim, perpetrator, community and the possible solutions for that case. Most of the students reflected “GBV and SRHR should be taught as undergraduate curriculum, youngsters should be aware of their rights and they should know who to reach when they are affected. Actions like keeping their issues confidentially and taking right action at the right time will make youngsters to reach these key officials and discuss their issues without any fear.”
In Sri Lanka one out of four women are sexually affected by the time they reach 18 years of age (Protecting women’s right 2013, UNFPA). A study revealed that 36% of undergraduates have faced physical abuse and 44% of them have faced sexual abuse in Sri Lanka. These facts indicates the importance of GBV and SRHR awareness among students. People think physical abuse only as GBV. No, GBV exists in different forms: domestic violence, street harassment, cyber harassment etc. GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in a culture of silence.GBV seriously affects all aspects of women’s health- physical, sexual and reproductive, mental and behavioural health. In some cases negative impacts may persist long after the violence has stopped.
It is important to educate students about GBV and SRHR to help them understand the issue and fight for their own rights. Awareness provision on GBV and SRHR to students is a timely action which needs to be adapted by other educational institutions too.