In November, I had the opportunity to travel to Sri Lanka to visit our partner there, IN Sri Lanka (INLK). It was a dual-purpose visit, to conduct a capacity assessment (where we look at all elements of the organisation) and to monitor the ChildLink project your generous support is facilitating . I was able to spend time with the project team, and review the work being done. There has been some really exciting progress over the past year! In the Mullaitivu district where the project operates, there is a district-level Child Protection Committee, made up of representatives from individual villages.
However, this means there is only one or two people per village from the Committee, and they were finding it very difficult to take any proactive Child Protection actions, with their role mostly limited to reporting incidents after they occurred. INLK have been able to work with this Committee and the relevant Government bodies, to get approval for village-level sub-committees in each of the three project villages. They have been trained by the Government Child Rights Officer, and now have the capacity to share Child Rights awareness in their villages, and to proactively identify and monitor children at high risk of abuse . This includes working with the schools to follow up children who are at risk of dropping out of school so they can counsel the families.
One of the key challenges for Child Rights in this area has been the ability of parents to afford all their children’s needs, from education to nutrition to health care. To address this, INLK have partnered with a Federation of women’s Self-Help Groups to empower mothers with financial literacy and access to savings and low-interest loans. The project has now formed 12 Self-Help Groups, and have seen great successes among these groups. They’re now ready to move to the next level of setting up a Cluster Level Association, where representatives from each Group will form together to discuss and address concerns, and provide support for all of the Groups. One fantastic achievement has been these groups joining together for collective loans from the local bank, which enables women to access levels of credit they would be unable to get individually.
The strong savings culture and group accountability at their foundation has meant that they have been able to successfully pay back these loans without issue. This has enabled the women to invest in their children’s health and education, improving the safety of their homes (roofing repairs, windows for security and even electricity connection) and small business opportunities.
These Self-Help Groups also participate in community activities such as cleaning, providing tea services for hospitals, and working together with the Child Protection Committees to support and supervise children’s activities. Each village has a Children’s Club where the children meet once a week to play and learn. The Children’s Clubs have also been registered with the Government, which means they have access to regular Child Rights awareness sessions by the Child Rights Officer. Alongside these great successes of the project, INLK as an organisation continues to learn and grow, and so does INA! The capacity assessment process we went through was a great opportunity to review the progress INLK has made over the past three years, as well as to identify areas for further strengthening and growth as they strive for continual improvement and effectiveness as an organization.
It was great timing for this process, and INLK is in a period of new beginnings as their CEO of the past five years, Rachel Perera, has stepped down from the organization. Rachel’s dedication and her experience in community development have been central in setting up this fantastic ChildLink project which is community-led and sustainable. I was also lucky to time my visit during the recruitment, and was able to meet with the new CEO, Shaliya Silva as well. Shaliya brings experience in human resource management, training and networking which will be a great asset to INLK. He is excited and motivated by a commitment to work with communities in need to take on the role and drive INLK forward. He says:
“In the name of God the Almighty, I wish you peace! “…My new appointment as the CEO of International Needs Lanka network would allow me to be close to (the) needy to support them to achieve their life objectives with women empowerment projects, child protection projects and young and adult empowerment interventions. “If I can cry and smile with my brother and sister who is in need and to share the good Lord’s teachings in order to make them strong to follow him and make his believers for happy and better livelihood.” We at INA are also excited to continue on this journey with INLK and the communities involved in our work together, and I hope you will continue to walk with us too!
Programs and Compliance Officer, INA