December the 8th 2011 marked the opening ceremony of the Sthree Mela (meaning Voices of Sri Lankan Women) exhibition and conference held in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Arda Aghazarian from the YWCA of Palestine reports on the delegation’s experience and participation.
Upon the return of the YWCA young women from their visit in Jaffna to Colombo on December 7 2011, they were hosted to a special viewing of the film “Peace Unveiled” of the Women, War and Peace series (one of the five films in the PBS TV Series by Abigail Disney). The opening was delivered by H.E. Ambassador Patricia Butenis. It has been a real privilege for the young women from war-torn countries to personally meet with the filmmaker Ms. Abigail Disney who sat with the group in a round table and got to speak and hear from each one of our delegates. The TV series chronicles the rise of the newly-announced Nobel Peace Prize laureates, which streamed LIVE a couple of days later.
In the following three days, the group stayed for the Sthree Mela Conference in Colombo, and was joined by Juli Dugdale from the World YWCA for the partners’ global meeting, Mira Rizek from the YWCA of Palestine who took the lead in the bi-lateral capacity building dialogue between the YWCA of Palestine and Sri Lanka, and World YWCA General Secretary Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda.
The Sthree Mela Conference started on Dec. 7 with drum beats, modern sounds and cultural representations from Sri Lanka, as well as the opening speeches by Ms. Visaka Dharmadasa and the guest of honor, H.E. Senator Mubina Jaffar from British Colombia, Canada, who shared her metaphor of women having the ability to sew the fabric of communities together, and that in order to achieve “harmony” in society, all citizens of the society must be included.
The YWCA participated in three panel discussions at Sthree Mela (on the 8th and 9th of December); two of which had panelists from the YWCA of Palestine, namely Arda Aghazarian on the “Using Media for Peace-Building” panel, and Mira Rizek on the “Implementation of UN Resolution 1325” panel. The third panel was specific to the YWCA and was moderated by Marie-Claude Julsaint from the World YWCA and had the three young women panelists: Sichelesile Ndlovu from the YWCA of Zimbabwe, Magda Lopez Cardenas from the YWCA of Colombia and Kue Ku from the YWCA of Myanmar share their experiences as young women in conflict-driven areas.
The YWCA sisters from the National YWCA of Sri Lanka as well as the YWCA of Colombo have hosted the delegation in more than one occasion and have shared plenty of stories, food and Christmas carols that brought a spirit of joy, laughter and good memories to be remembered about the visit to Sri Lanka in spite of the horrid realities witnessed.