Chiranthi Senanayake – Women Deliver

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2020

Chiranthi Senanayake

  • Age: 29
  •    |   She/her/hers

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Every human being has a birth responsibility to impact lives and empower others. Such a responsibility doesn't mandate one to create large scale change or to adopt activism labels. It is bringing a smile to those within your immediate reach so that you are part of something bigger than yourself.

- Chiranthi Senanayake

Bio

Chiranthi Senanayake is a Systemic Development Researcher and Practitioner passionate about Alternative Legal and Development Thinking, and Stakeholder Empowerment Incubation (especially of women, youth and persons with disabilities). Her present professional and development sector project engagements catalyse stakeholder led dialogue and action on sufficiency-based, sustainability oriented and endogenous development systems in the Global South. Expanding upon eleven years of community service in the South Asian development sector (for which she has received multiple international and national awards) she founded Hype Sri Lanka: the region’s first and only youth empowerment incubator.

After being Called to the Bar as an Attorney-at-Law of Sri Lanka and completing her undergraduate education in law and development policy and management economics, she completed her LLM in Int. Economic Law, Justice and Development via the Chevening Scholarship 2020. She is currently following a MSc in International Development (Online Learning) through the Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarship 2022. Since February 2022, she has been serving as a full time Lecturer at The Faculty of Law of Horizon Campus, Sri Lanka for The University of London International LLB programme and The Birmingham City University LLM in International Human Rights programme.

What ignited your pursuit for gender equality?

My passion for gender equality, especially the engagement of young girls and women in development policy and systemic development process, was ignited by my first volunteering in 2009. At the age of fourteen years, I volunteered for a student group working with the Sri Lankan Army to carry out peer led self-development training programmes for former LTTE female child soldiers residing at a rehabilitation centre in Mullativu. Spending the day with young girls my age and hearing stories of terror and violence in times of crisis, exposed me to the victimisation of young girls and women through failing systems and processes of development governance. This experience fueled my interest in stakeholder empowerment incubation, especially that of young women, women with disabilities and girl children.

Please share your biggest wins as an advocate for gender equality.

I would like to share two important milestones in my advocacy journey for promoting gender equality in development policy and systemic development spaces. In 2017, as a Member of the Task Force to Formulate a Model Youth Policy for Sri Lanka for the Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs, I advocated for gender inclusivity in the proposed national youth policy by lobbying for a framework which responds to issues specifically faced by female adolescents and young women, such as protection of SRHR, access to family planning and menstrual hygiene facilities and the promotion of young female leadership in politics. I founded Hype Sri Lanka, as South Asia's first and only youth empowerment incubator to pilot 'Youth Empowerment Incubation' as an alternative to the conventional 'bottom-to-top' approach to youth development. An apt example of a project carried out through the Incubator for gender equality is the formulation of a report titled 'Systemic Challenges Faced by Women with Disabilities in Public Political Participation and Advocacy' together with Women Enabled International (WEI) and UNFPA Sri Lanka. This document served as an input document for the major report presented by WEI to 'The UN Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls'.

Outside of your gender equality advocacy work, what do you enjoy doing?

I enjoy experiencing the simple moments in life and slowing down whenever possible to stop and stare at all that life has to offer. May it be travelling across oceans to experience another culture, talking about the human condition with loved ones over a cup of coffee or taking reflective walks on busy streets: such moments of reflection and appreciation add both tranquility and variety to my life.