Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan women's inspiring response to the Tsunami

Amidst the devastation wrought by the Tsunami in coastal areas of Sri Lanka, reports of sexual and gender based violence impacting on displaced women first emerged less than a week after the disaster. Now a new coalition of Sri Lankan women is providing protection, support and empowerment to the approximately 500,000 women and girls affected by the disaster, in a program supported by AUSTCARE.

United by concern about sexual and gender based violence that are common to crisis situations, women across Sri Lanka have created the Coalition for Assisting Tsunami Affected Women (CATAW). The Coalition spans ethnic and religious groups and includes five networks of non-governmental organisations with a constituent membership of 60 women's organisations working together to empower women to decrease the devastating costs of the Tsunami to individuals.

AUSTCARE is supporting CATAW's work in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Sri Lanka with funds raised in the AUSTCARE Tsunami Appeal.

"When a disaster such as the tsunami devastates whole communities it is inspiring to see the resilience of individual women and their ability to look beyond immediate needs," says Michael G Smith AO, CEO of AUSTCARE. "AUSTCARE's focus on displaced people is closely linked to the rights of women, since incidents of gender based violence often increase in post conflict and emergency settings. Without adequate support, access to decision making, secure accommodation and livelihood, women in Sri Lanka will be highly vulnerable."

Dr Eileen Pittaway of the Centre for Refugee Research at the University of NSW has been in Sri Lanka representing AUSTCARE since just after the Tsunami hit. "It is now time to start the rebuilding phase - in this period empowerment of women is important," says Eileen. "With this project we can minimise the traumas experienced by widows, children and other women in Sri Lanka and advance the protection of women's rights in the reconstruction process."

"Most aid efforts are focusing on the immediate needs of the population in general. As in all conflicts women and children are most exposed to the brutality of the disaster, and this project focuses on this vulnerable group in particular," says Eileen.

"The generosity of the Australian public and corporate sector over the past month has enabled AUSTCARE to commit to long-term recovery efforts in Sri Lanka and Aceh, Indonesia," says Michael Smith. "This project is one of several AUSTCARE programs that will meet immediate needs and bring sustainable benefits for local communities in the recovery and reconstruction phase."


Media please note:

For AUSTCARE and partner interviews or further information contact:

Elektra Spathopoulos
Fundraising & Communications Manager
M: 0422 204 790
T: (02) 9565 9106

AUSTCARE is an Australian-based, independent, specialist humanitarian aid and development organisation that is non-profit and non-sectarian.

AUSTCARE's mission is to assist refugees overseas, displaced people and those affected by landmines to rebuild their lives through the expert delivery of development programs in partnership with local communities and other agencies.

Since 1967, AUSTCARE has worked in over 30 different countries to reduce poverty, build local capacity and enhance human security.

AUSTCARE is a full member of the Australian Council for International Development. As a signatory to the ACFID Code of Conduct, AUSTCARE is committed to high standards of financial reporting, management and ethical practice.