Youth and Migration Sri Lanka

Rajini Sureka Wijerupa, from the YWCA of Sri Lanka is one of the young women short-term interns that participated in the UN Commission on Population and Development in New York from April 22-26, 2013. Its theme was “New trends in migration: demographic aspects.”

Rajini Sureka

Rajini Sureka

Migration is a significant issue which the youth in Sri Lanka face. Education opportunities, lack of employment, poverty and ethnic conflict has contributed to the increase of migration. While some have been successful in secure migration, many have suffered and have been caught while illegally attempting to leave the country and even deaths have been reported

Sri Lanka is challenged by different migration patterns and dynamics as it enters a post war era. With the island’s 25-year-old conflict coming to an end in mid 2009, thousands of families were displaced in the North and the East. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), in coordination with other humanitarian agencies, assisted the Government of Sri Lanka to address significant humanitarian needs generated during the emergency through the provision of emergency shelters, water, sanitation and hygiene support, health support, camp care and maintenance, transport and logistic services, donation of de-mining equipment and a technical enhancement of registration capacity.

At present, IOM’s interventions focus on assisting the government to resettle displaced populations in their villages of origin and to reintegrate former combatants, thus supporting national efforts in building peace and stability.
Years of conflict and slow economic development have resulted in an increased outflow of Sri Lankans, with some choosing irregular means and falling prey to trafficking and smuggling rings. This has prompted the Government and INGOs, like IOM, to intervene to prevent such attempts. However, such attempts continue to be reported and those who try to leave the country by illegal means have their own reasons for the same.
The high cost of living and unemployment of youth compel them to leave the country. The mismatch between education and employment has been a burning issue in the country and there are nearly 25,000 unemployed graduates.
Although the war ended in mid 2009, the conflict continues and youth in the North face many difficulties, including harassment by the Government military forces. Some youth have said that they prefer to leave the country by illegal means taking the risk, (most of them take boats to travel to Australia) and they say it is better to die in the middle of the sea than to undergo torture and harassment by the military.
Sri Lanka has a long history of labour migration flows especially to the Middle East. Many young women leave to the Middle East to support their families. It is only a few who will find a safe place with an employer with a good heart. Most of them undergo torture and harassment and even work without pay. Most of the time their families at home don’t get to know their situation and their lives become more vulnerable. Many who went to the middle-east countries have come back with serious injuries and there have been instances where sexual abuse and deaths were reported. On this situation the Sri Lankan embassies in the relevant countries are also responsible as we hear most of the time that they are not assisting the migrant workers from home.

Most of these women who go to the Middle East as domestic helpers are without trained skills and do not know the language. This too leads to harassment and severe punishment by the employer.
A few months back it was reported that a young domestic worker who went to Saudi Arabia was executed for the murder of an infant. This young girl left the country when she was only 17 years old with a forged passport. When she was arrested and when the case was being heard there was not sufficient efforts from the Sri Lankan Government to rescue her as the most important concern in this case, that is the age of this young girl could not be addressed as the Government too had to be responsible as the Government officers were involved in assisting the agency in Sri Lanka to help this young girl to get a passport with a wrong age so that she could leave the country as a domestic helper. Saudi courts refused to treat her as a minor and she was executed…

During the past it has also been evident that many youth who can afford to find means for their education abroad leave the country for higher education and they do not come back once they complete their studies. The competition to enter universities in Sri Lanka make many youth drop from higher education and they tend to leave to western and European countries. When they do not return it affects the social and family lives of people as their parents too have to lead a life alone waiting for their children and grandchildren to return home.

The Government in Sri Lanka has a responsibility to look into this issue and at the same time we need the support from organisations such as the UN, IOM and other organisations who can assist us in this issue.

Reference:    Migration of Sri Lankan Women- Report on Analysis of Causes & Post РArrival Assistance
Launch of Sri Lanka’s Migeration Profile

The Commission on Population and Development

Rajini Sureka  Wijerupa is from the National Office  YWCA of Sri Lanka. Rajini is the World YWCA 2013 Short term intern advocating at the Commission on Population and Development 46th Session in New York, USA.

Rajini Sureka

Rajini Sureka

I work at the YWCA of Sri Lanka as a youth coordinator and the youth coordinator of our young women lead change project. I have been involved in the YWCA for the past 13 years and I have been inspired by the vision and the strategic frame work of the World YWCA which empowers the young women throughout the world, especially the excluded communities. YWCA of Sri Lanka shares the same vision and goals. As the youth coordinator of the association I would like to contribute to the implementation of strategies that empower young women within the YWCA in my country and the society outside the association. I have experience coordinating 160 youth of YWCA Association nationally including 72 youth of Peer Leaders.

I really want to extend my gratitude of thanks to the World YWCA office for giving me such amazing opportunity to be one of the short interns for this year this.The World YWCA has been at the forefront of young women’s empowerment, continually advocating for young women becoming leaders both within and outside the YWCA movement, building their confidence and encouraging peer training, mentoring and sharing of experience. Through internships, leadership training, dedicated space at the decision-making table; and opportunities to engage in global and regional advocacy, the World YWCA equips young women with the knowledge, skills and experience.

The Commission on Population and Development (CPD) has been a tremendous experience since it was my first time to attend CPD and also my first time to visit New York. As a group we are advocating for the following key priorities as identified in the Global World YWCA Strategy on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), and which are complimentary to the key priorities identified in this year’s CPD session which focuses on migrants and their access to services.

These include:

  • SRHR of young women and girls and HIV – Access to SRH services free of discrimination
  • Comprehensive sexuality education, informal and formal for young women and girls
  • Violence against women and peace with justice in relation to migrant, displaced young women and girls in conflict areas

This was a great experience for me that has developed my knowledge and understanding in the global context of SRHR. This will improve my future work on the SRHR Programme activities in the YWCA of Sri Lanka. I look forward to making a difference this week at the 46th  Session of CPD.

Happy Birthday to Elizabeth Palmer

On April 17, 2013, Elizabeth Palmer turned 100 years old!

The World Office celebrates this incredible woman and we are proud to be such an important part of her legacy. The heritage of her vision and actions which saw the World YWCA become one of the most respected women’s organisations and highly influential in setting global standards on the status of women, remain an example for generations of women and girls lizzy p!to come.

To mark this special birthday and in honour of her incredible leadership of the movement the World YWCA Board is establishing the Elizabeth Palmer Fund. As a named fund it will provide lifelong recognition of Ms Palmer within the World YWCA Endowment Fund, the interest of which is used to advance the purpose of the World YWCA to develop the leadership and collective power of women and girls around the world to achieve justice, peace, health, human dignity, freedom and a sustainable environment for all people.

The World YWCA received a flood of messages for Ms. Palmer on the occasion of her birthday. The messages all express the impact that Elizabeth Palmer has had on their lives and the inspiration that she generated. We thought we would share a few of them with you:

YWCA Sisters and Friends,
Just to thank each one of you for joining me, Dr Deborah Thomas-Austin, World YWCA President, Board, staff and all our volunteers on this very SPECIAL Day. We are celebrating Elizabeth Palmer’s 100th Birthday.

She is my mentor, my source of inspiration and my guide. When I face the critical moment for making a decision as General Secretary today, I often ask myself – “how did Elizabeth Palmer respond to a similar challenge in the 50s, the 60s, and 70s when we did not have sophisticated communication tools like internet, which enables us to reach of for support at a click?”.

In the last few years, Elizabeth Palmer hosted me in her house, prepared breakfast for the two of us, and chaired a seminar about leadership and the history of the YWCA. She has been on her feet pushing women’s issues during the founding of the United Nations; she was there lobbying for adoption of CEDAW and UNIFEM. Today we celebrate the establishment of UN Women.

Elizabeth remains and continues to be a global leader with a vision, and yet grounded in the power, voice and service of individual women.

This is the inspiration through which the World YWCA has established the Elizabeth Palmer Fund. A simple way of bringing such depth of wisdom and experiences to millions of women and girls around the world for generations to come. I invite you to be part of this incredible journey with us, support the effort as we celebrate a great woman leader of our time.

Elizabeth Palmer, Happy Birthday.
With blessings,

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda General Secretary World YWCA


‚ÄúElizabeth Palmer was an extraordinary mentor and support to the YWCA of Fiji in its fledgling years. She was always there for Ruth Lechte and me and later Amelia Rokotuivuna as we worked hard to develop an organisation that truly suited the young people of Fiji as the country worked towards independence. When we hit problem areas she was on the end of the phone talking us through it all. When there was opposition she stood solidly with us. She opened her home in the old town of Geneva to us, and later her lovely apartment overlooking Lake Geneva. Elizabeth was a superb cook and we would sit in the kitchen discussing world affairs as she cooked up a storm…..quiches, pancakes, stews, scones – always delicious, always beautifully presented. We loved our visits to Geneva and I know that Ruth would want to be adding more stories of those times if she were still with us. Which of course she is in spirit.

Congratulations Elizabeth and much love on this most auspicious day. You have surely left your mark on this world and we are all the better for everything you have achieved.

Anne S Walker


“Dear Elizabeth,
Happy Birthday Elizabeth, I am inspired by your life story Best wishes, Belinda Bennett
It is with great pleasure and the best of wishes that I send my greatest birthday greetings to one of the long-time leaders in my life.  I will always remember Elizabeth Palmer as a great and magnificent person, whom I had the honour to know and to receive her marvellous touch.  May she have a wonderful time celebrating her birthday today.
With my deepest love,

Thelma Santamaria


‚ÄúDear Elizabeth, many good wishes come from Honolulu, Hawaii, on your birthday. I fondly remember the first time I met you in Geneva when you oriented the participants of the YWCA USA Asian Study Program. In the USA we had been “filled” with information…country history, current issues, culture, YWCA programs in our host countries, and more. I was so worried about being an ugly American. This was my first international experience. You wisely told us to listen, open ourselves to learning, enjoy and be ourselves, and that we were all members of this incredible global movement. I was relieved, inspired, proud, and excited to be a part of the YWCA sisterhood. I thank you for your leadership and commitment to the YWCA movement, and for being an inspiration to those of us who have had the privilege to have you in our lives. Enjoy your special day. We are celebrating, honouring and appreciating you virtually.‚ÄĚ

Jo Uehara


“Happy Birthday, Elizabeth!
What an amazing, inspirational lady you are… 
I remember being totally overawed when I first started with the World YWCA to find myself in a discussion group with you, but Рas ever Рyou gave everyone the space and the confidence to speak out and to contribute our ideas and helped us move beyond our differences to find common goals and values.  And this magic was to be repeated every time I had the honour of working with you over the years.
Your wisdom and leadership has been a model to us all and we wish you all the best for this special birthday and for many happy returns.
With warmest wishes “

Jane Bennett


“Dear Elizabeth,
A very happy 100th!¬† We have so many happy memories of you that it would be difficult to isolate just one.¬† Thank you for all you have done for the World YWCA and for your kindness.”

Ellen and Arne Sovik


I grew up knowing her as Lib, so I’ll sit at my computer and say “HAPPTY BIRTHDAY LIB!!!!!!!” I hope it is a hopping hundredth!

Jane Wolfe


“Happy Birthday to you, Elizabeth.¬† And thank you for continuing to help us strengthen the YWCA movement by maintaining a strong membership movement.¬† Each time you and I have a discussion, it is about membership as the key core of why the YWCA has been effective in so many locations.¬† Without members, the YWCA becomes another social agency but without the deep impact that involving our members to tackle deep social problems can have.
 Thanks for your continued coaching of all of us in the YWCA, and helping to keep this important worldwide organization strong!!  Have a great day.

Hyvää  syntymäpäivää


“Happy Birthday, Elizabeth
From YWCA of Finland National¬† Office we join to the greetings drafted by Jane:¬† ‚ÄúYour wisdom and leadership has been a model to us all and we wish you all the best for this special birthday.”

YWCA of Finland


“A photo from World YWCA ITI 2000 /Bossey is on our coffee table, you told then so many good stories about leadership and Finland, not forgetting the role of sauna. Aila and Bishop Irja have signed and mailed you a printed greeting and we know that you have had so many more friends in this corner of the world

Elaine Carlson


We just admire the way you have walked and paths you have gone through and celebrate the bold and brave women of YWCA!
One of our grand old YWCA ladies,Dr Eira Paunu will be 105 in May, may you both be richly blessed! 
With best and warmest greetings,

Pirjo-Liisa Penttinen


Elizabeth Palmer was the great international leader in Geneva when I came into the Swedish national leadership in the 1970s. How really great you are I did not realise until I participated in the UN Women’s Conference and NGO forum in Copenhagen 1980. Your leadership, Elizabeth, among the NGOs made me so proud to be a YWCA-leader and from that meeting you became my role model. To walk into Westminster Abbey in 1994 next to Elizabeth Palmer was so great, and to realise how much of the YWCA development into a real global world movement we all owe to Elizabeth was really thrilling.
It still is and we all celebrate you!

Anita Andersson


We once again wish Ms. Palmer a Happy Birthday and encourage you to donate to the Elizabeth Palmer Fund so that we may continue to be a bold, unified and strong movement, never resting until women all over the world can live a life free of violence and filled with choice and equal opportunity.

My Safe Space, My YWCA

Manisha is a Board Member, programme volunteer and a student  of social work at the YWCA of Bangalore City, India. She has been involved in the community development initiatives of her local association for many years and feels that the YWCA  movement has given her a family and support system that she always needed.

There has been an immense intergenerational bond within the YWCA of Bangalore City. To me, the organisation has provided a platform to understand, associate, lobby for various social issues that are affecting the very fabric of society. Our national movement, as the YWCA of India and our global movement around the world has contributed to the remarkable collective change and evolution with the emergence of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation. The YWCA of Bangalore City has not only been a source of strength and support but also has been a beacon in enhancing my potential, skills and appreciating my abilities.

As an individual who identifies herself as a lesbian, I feel I am part of the sexual minority, and the hardest part for me was acceptance. As a person who was brought up in a stigmatised society ‚Äúbeing out of the box‚ÄĚ only meant you must be what society chooses to accept as ‚Äėout of the box‚Äô.

Finding my own alternative identity left me judged, homeless, without a family, rejected from peers, survivor to a lot of ridicules, abuse and sarcasm. It has really not been easy to make it this far and the journey will continue to be tougher still. However, I still feel completely liberated that I have come to terms with myself and will do my best to break stigmas and mind barriers. There is a long way to go for the deliverance for LGBTQ community here in India. All the fights for rights and freedom come with a price.

Being given the opportunity to be a board member in my association was indeed a surprise and out of the blue for someone like me. I have always needed to feel that I matter in some way. I recognised it as not only a huge opportunity of leadership but also a great proactive experience with other leaders on the Board. The difference of opinions and diverse perspectives can be a challenging factor but there has been immense encouragement and support from the older members of the organisation. I am both grateful and proud that my Association is a safe space I can truly call my own


Palestina, a√ļn esperanzas a pesar de las adversidades

Por Silvanna Ayaipoma de Mattos, Miembro de la Junta Directiva de la YWCA Mundial 2012 Р2015   

Participé en el programa de plantación de olivos que la Iniciativa de Activismo Conjunto (Joint Advocacy Initiative РJAI) de la YMCA de Jerusalem del Este y la YWCA de Palestina)

Silvanna Ayaipoma de Mattos

Silvanna Ayaipoma de Mattos

lleva a cabo desde hace 6 a√Īos dentro de la campa√Īa ‚ÄúMantener Viva la Esperanza‚ÄĚ (Keep Hope Alive). Este programa de 10 d√≠as de duraci√≥n incluy√≥ la plantaci√≥n de 1,200 olivos, visitas tur√≠sticas a Bel√©n, Jerusalem, Hebr√≥n y Ramallah adem√°s de visitas a organizaciones que trabajan pro Palestina, as√≠ como la proyecci√≥n de videos sobre el tema y talleres con voluntarios y activistas.

Nos visitaron palestinos que habían estado en la cárcel debido a las “ detenciones administrativas“, una argucia  legal de los israelitas que les permite detener y encarcelar  hasta por 6 meses a cualquier palestino sin existir justificación alguna y los llevan a cárceles en Israel . Pero estos 6 meses pueden ser renovados automáticamente por otros 6 meses y así indefinidamente. Israel justifica cualquier acción “por razones de seguridad “. Mientras que en cualquier cárcel de un país los reclusos tienen un régimen de visitas, para los palestinos esto no existe puesto que sus familiares no pueden entrar a Israel y sus abogados tampoco. Aquí a los palestinos los someten a la ley militar, sin embargo, a los israelitas a la ley civil.

Mientras vivo en un pa√≠s libre pienso ¬Ņc√≥mo los territorios palestinos no son parte de Israel pero est√°n bajo jurisdicci√≥n israel√≠? Los cierres, la situaci√≥n de sitio, los toques de queda y los m√°s de 500 controles militares (checkpoints) han afectado al acceso de los palestinos a la salud, a la educaci√≥n y al trabajo y han afectado tambi√©n al derecho a la libertad de movimiento y al derecho a la propiedad. Han causado un colapso en la econom√≠a palestina, aumento del desempleo y la pobreza, disminuci√≥n de las actividades comerciales lo que ha provocado un aumento en la dependencia de la ayuda humanitaria,¬† haciendo que la mayor√≠a de los palestinos no sean capaces de llevar algo parecido a una vida normal, teniendo que llevar una vida diaria llena de dificultades, privaciones y afrentas a la dignidad humana.

Pienso en el muro del apartheid de 6 metros de alto construido por Israel que serpentea el territorio palestino. Para construir el muro, el gobierno israel√≠ ha ordenado vastas expropiaciones de tierra y ha destruido casas, tiendas, escuelas, redes de suministro de agua y tierras ¬†de cultivo. El muro ha sido declarado ilegal ¬†en el 2004 por la Corte Internacional de Justicia de La Haya, el muro afecta a los palestinos y es un castigo colectivo que est√° prohibido por la Convenci√≥n de Ginebra de 1949. Israel justifica el muro como medida para evitar los ataques en su contra.¬† Pero ¬Ņqui√©n ataca? Israel continuamente invade tierras palestinas y construye asentamientos de colonos que son los que atacan a los granjeros, tambi√©n ¬†destruye √°rboles de olivo que son el sustento de la econom√≠a palestina.

La poblaci√≥n palestina de Cisjordania no tiene acceso a Jerusalem, por eso los l√≠deres responsables del programa no nos pudieron a compa√Īar en la visita a esta ciudad. S√≥lo quienes consiguen permisos especiales pueden entrar a Jerusalem a trav√©s de uno de los cuatro controles militares que la rodean. Los l√≠deres se ¬†aseguraron de proveernos un bus que no tuviera placa de Cisjordania ya que tienen prohibido de circular por Jerusalem (esto incluye a las ambulancias que al llegar al control militar deben trasladar al paciente a una ambulancia con placa israel√≠ en el caso que el paciente tenga permiso para entrar). De ah√≠ que el acceso a la salud es restringido por lo que muchas mujeres palestinas han dado a luz cerca de los controles militares.

Hay aldeas que parecen c√°rceles pues est√°n rodeadas por el muro que los ha dejado sin hospitales, cl√≠nicas, ni tiendas¬† por lo que tienen que cruzar un control militar que les puede tomar m√≠nimo una hora. Si es que se va en auto, al regresar deben vaciarlo completamente, pasar cada objeto por los rayos X, luego se revisa el auto manualmente y con ayuda ¬†de perros que ¬†lo olfatean; si se trae alg√ļn l√≠quido, lo analizan en el laboratorio. Hay familias que quedaron separadas por el muro, familias cuyas tierras quedaron al otro lado del muro ¬†las cuales no pueden sembrarlas sin un permiso especial que muchas veces es denegado. Y si Israel encuentra tierras sin cultivar las confisca y construye colonias israelitas.

Al quedarse los palestinos sin tierras que cultivar han tenido que buscar trabajo en Israel, esperando horas en el¬† control militar 300 (llamado Gilo por Israel), teniendo que levantarse a las 3 de la ma√Īana para estar en el control militar a las 4 de la ma√Īana, hacer largas colas , esperar a que salga el sol y pasar por controles estrictos y humillantes. ¬†Los participantes en el programa pedimos de pasar por este control militar que es el m√°s terrible y tambi√©n vivimos esa experiencia! Luego los palestinos vuelven a casa de noche despu√©s de haber pasado nuevamente por el mismo control militar y las mismas humillaciones. Es como ir y volver a una prisi√≥n cada d√≠a y muchos no tienen otra opci√≥n.

Conocimos a un padre de familia que se cans√≥ de no ver a sus hijos¬† por estar en su casa muy pocas horas a causa del trabajo en Israel y el paso del control militar. Una vez fue detenido administrativamente y permaneci√≥ dos a√Īos y medio en la c√°rcel. Al salir de la c√°rcel decidi√≥ no trabajar m√°s para Israel ¬†y se dedic√≥ a la venta ambulatoria de caf√© cerca del control militar que ten√≠a que pasar diariamente. Ahora gana menos pero nos dice que est√° contento as√≠ pues pasa mucho m√°s horas en casa con sus hijos. Su relato nos conmovi√≥‚Ķ Y ese d√≠a vendi√≥ muchos vasos de caf√© a nuestro grupo.

Poco a poco estoy superando lo que viví esos días en Palestina, pero pienso en mis amigas/os palestinos que pasan diariamente por violaciones de sus fundamentales derechos humanos.

A trav√©s de las atrocidades vistas en relaci√≥n a la violaci√≥n de los derechos humanos de los palestinos tengo m√°s conciencia sobre la situaci√≥n que viven d√≠a a d√≠a y la esperanza viva que si todos alrededor del mundo fu√©ramos m√°s solidarios y realiz√°ramos acciones que contribuyan a reivindicar sus derechos otro mundo mejor es posible para ellos. Los invito a apoyar los programas y campa√Īas que realizan la YWCA y YMCA en Palestina y no s√≥lo participando en sus visitas sino tambi√©n realizando concretas acciones en nuestras YWCA y con nuestro entorno, estimulando el di√°logo y la b√ļsqueda de soluciones a esta realidad.