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January 2021

Advancing the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in Sri Lanka: Barriers, Opportunities, and a Path Forward

Executive Summary

Sri Lankan communities are deeply divided by mistrust generated over decades of war. The political economic inequalities and grievances that initially triggered the conflict remain largely unresolved. These include limited representation of minorities in government, laws sanctioning the distribution of state jobs on ethno-linguistic lines, and inter-ethnic disparities in land ownership. National divisions have become further entrenched in the conflict’s aftermath.

Within this context, women and girls face specific and interconnected needs. Factors inhibiting Sri Lankan women from developing their potential include very low levels of political representation, inequalities in the labor market, barriers to upward occupational mobility, imbalances in skills development, high rates of gender-based violence (GBV), and gendered social norms. Inclusive economic development, including through women’s economic empowerment (WEE), is vital to ensure lasting peace in Sri Lanka.

Strengthening the Role of Women Leaders in Promoting Peace and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka (hereafter Sri Lanka program) is an 18-month WAGE initiative that is being implemented in three districts in Sri Lanka in collaboration with local civil society organizations (CSOs) in Ampara, Jaffna and Kurunegala. Together the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), Search for Common Ground (Search) Sri Lanka, and the Grameen Foundation (Grameen) aim to strengthen the capacity of women leaders to collaborate across divides and meaningfully participate in reconciliation processes and economic development.

This report presents findings from a rapid needs assessment (RNA) and a baseline survey. The RNA and survey sought to provide a better understanding of women’s perspectives related to peace and reconciliation processes and engagement in economic activities. The assessment methodology drew from WAGE’s “Women’s Economic Empowerment Assessment Tool.” The assessment will serve as the evidence base for technical assistance for the Sri Lanka program.

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The statements and analysis contained in the report “Advancing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Sri Lanka: Barriers, Opportunities and a Path Forward” are the work of the Women and Girls Empowered (WAGE) consortium, led by the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) in close partnership with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), Grameen Foundation, and Search for Common Ground (Search). The Board of Governors of the American Bar Association (ABA) has neither reviewed nor sanctioned its content. Accordingly, the views expressed in the report should not be construed as representing the policy of the ABA. Furthermore, nothing contained in this report is to be considered rendering legal advice for specific cases, and readers are responsible for obtaining such advice from their own legal counsel.

The report was prepared by TK Research team of consultants, Nalini Rathnarajah (Search), Mohammed Ismail Mohammed Sadaath (Search), Sara Savino (Search), Bindi Jhaveri (Grameen), Aisalkyn Botoeva (Search) and Maxine Rich (Search). The report was reviewed by Marin O’Brien Belhoussein (Search), Paulina (Paula) Rudnicka (ABA ROLI), and Muthoni Kamuyu-Ojuolo (ABA ROLI).

WAGE wishes to cordially thank Search’s local partner organizations for facilitating the data collection process and for providing additional information used in the analysis. This publication was funded by the United States Department of State through a grant provided to the WAGE consortium. All opinions, findings, and conclusions stated herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the United States Government, WAGE, or any members of the WAGE consortium.


Funded by the US Department of State’s Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI), the Women and Girls Empowered (WAGE) is a global consortium to advance the status of women and girls. It is led by the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) in close partnership with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), Grameen Foundation, and Search for Common Ground (Search). WAGE works to strengthen the capacity of civil society and private sector organizations in target countries to improve prevention and response to gender-based violence (GBV); advance the women, peace and security agenda; and support women’s economic empowerment. In this context, WAGE provides direct assistance to women and girls, including information, resources, and services they need to succeed as active and equal participants in the global economy. WAGE also engages in collaborative research and learning to build a body of evidence on relevant promising practices in these thematic areas. To account for the deeply interconnected nature of women’s and girls’ experiences, WAGE’s initiatives employ approaches that are highly collaborative, integrated, and inclusive. WAGE is funded by the U.S. Department of State Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues.