John Keells Foundation’s “Break the Silence” Public campaign targets domestic violence

John Keells Foundation conducted a two-week public campaign against gender-based violence under its Project WAVE (Working Against Violence through Education). This year’s campaign sustained last year’s theme of ‘Break the Silence’ with a special focus on Domestic Violence in the context of reported surge in complaints received on hotlines during the pandemic. The overall objective of the public campaign was to empower both victims and bystanders to break the silence on violence, increase awareness, promote advocacy, and create a platform for discussing challenges and solutions on combatting gender based violence (GBV).

In a staff memo issued to mark the international day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Mr. Krishan Balendra, Chairperson/CEO of the John Keells Group noted that “Since the outbreak of COVID-19, emerging data has shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, have intensified. However, there is also evidence that ending violence against women and girls is possible, with a comprehensive approach that tackles the root causes, transforms harmful social norms, provides services for survivors, and ends impunity. Ending GBV requires the continued and coordinated effort and steadfast commitment of everyone” and urged that “all of us, as responsible citizens, make it our personal and collective responsibility to build a workplace and society free of all forms of discrimination and violence.”

In view of COVID-19 related restrictions, this year’s public campaign was conducted via social media, television, and a partnership with Keells Supermarkets. A panel discussion to mark the international day was aired on 24th November in collaboration with MTV with the participation of Manel Jayamanna, Executive Director of the National Committee on Women, DIG Renuka Jayasundara, Director of the Police Research and Development Division, Niroshika Wegiriya, Attorney–at–Law and Project Coordinator of Women in Need and Carmeline Jayasuriya, Head of Operations, John Keells Foundation. The panelists addressed a wide range of issues which included government and legal interventions, impacts, repercussions, and remedies and the importance of multi stakeholder participation in preventing and mitigating GBV. The social media campaign which was conducted from 22nd to 29th of November highlighted helplines, messages by stakeholders working in the field of GBV and real-life incidents faced by survivors of Domestic Violence. The social media campaign reached a total of 91,582 persons and created 186,874 impressions. Keells supermarkets collaborated with John Keells Foundation by publicizing support information for domestic violence victims on customer receipts issued by outlets island wide.

Project WAVE since its launch in 2014 has rolled out awareness programs for the employees of the John Keells Group and other stakeholders including training of selected staff as facilitators, sensitization programs for target groups (police officers, lawyers, school children, university students and community members) and public campaigns targeting commuters of public transport as well as awareness creation through electronic and social media, impacting an estimated 1.9 million persons to date.

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