Suriya Women’s Development Centre (SWDC) was established in 1991 with the objective of working with women and children displaced by conflict. Suriya started working with women and children in refugee camps and continued working with them when they were resettled in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka in early 1993.
Though their initial objective was to facilitate the transition and integration of these women and children into society, this has expanded with time. It acts as a voice of for women living in the Eastern Province: Suriya works with war-affected women and organises them to voice their perspective of the conflict. It brings together women from Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim ethnicities through their human rights, gender empowerment, development and theatre programmes. Suriya believe that although women are the most severely affected during a conflict, their voice is hardly given notice within the patriarchal hierarchy of the society. Suriya is striving to make these voices heard through the opposition, empowering women to speak up for a peaceful society.
Suriya uses a number of methods to bring out women’s voice for peacebuilding: they work in refugee camps, resettlement areas and with women living in conflict areas. They organise vocational training for women to encourage their attendance and in the centre, educate the women and children on human rights and gender equality, provide psychosocial counselling, legal advice for the women who suffered at the hands of armed groups and males and use cultural theatre and traditional songs as a form of expression and empowerment. These diverse approaches facilitate the participation of war affected women and highlight their voice as a significant factor in relation to the conflict.