Rupika De Silva
Founder of Saviya, a women’s NGO in Sri Lanka
Rupika started her career as a volunteer with the Sarvodaya Organization in Sri Lanka in 1987. With the experience gained, she firmly believes that women who have been affected by the conflict still require a lot more support and attention. She started Saviya- a women’s NGO which aims to fulfill aspirations of human rights, especially of women and children, and to promote peace based on community participatory methods in the southern province and other conflict affected areas in Sri Lanka.
In 2002 she implemented an innovative program to promote women’s voices which involved an exchange program between the Sinhala women in the North and Tamil women in the South of the country. Under this initiative over 100 women of each group had the opportunity to interact in workshops, social and cultural events together, helping build stronger relations between the two groups.
When the Tsunami of 2004 struck, Rupika supported women in the affected coastal communities, who she knew would be most vulnerable and yet with least support. During this time she also organized rehabilitation programmes for the communities and despite facing resistance to her work, was determined to continue living there for over two months leading community mobilization efforts and organizing camping sites to provide shelter and protection to those in need. She has been able to strengthen the economic independence of low income groups and in particular has been successful in her initiatives aimed at strengthening women’s entrepreneurship skills.