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Small grants support Sri Lankan alumni to contribute to gender equality and child health

Posted: 3 March 2023

Sri Lanka, Alumni, Impact, Inclusion,

Ahead of International Women’s Day 2023, we are highlighting small grant recipients in Sri Lanka whose projects promoted gender equality and supported women and girls.

In September 2020, Australia Awards – Sri Lanka launched a Small Grant Scheme to support alumni to have greater impact in contributing towards sustainable development in the country. The grant scheme, funded by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, aligned with priorities identified in the Australian Government’s Partnerships for Recovery: Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response. Following the success of the 2020 small grant cycle, Australia Awards – Sri Lanka offered another grant round in 2021 as the effects of COVID-19 continued throughout the world.

The scheme provided grants of AUD5,000 for projects that supported recovery initiatives connected to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and responded to the priority areas of economic recovery, health security, and stability. Half of the ten projects funded in the 2021 round contributed to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. These five projects are showcased below.

Anuradhi Jayasinghe, Consultant Project Manager and Researcher at the Law and Society Trust, used her grant to contribute to child health and improved nutrition. Her project ensured children from an impoverished community received nutritious meals during the pandemic and supported women-headed families to produce fruit and vegetables in their home gardens. The grant supported her to distribute food rations among 20 women-headed families in July and September 2021. These families all included children under 15 years studying at the Ihalagoda Vijaya Maha Vidyalaya and Uluvitike Maha Vidyalaya in Galle district. The project also distributed home gardening equipment and provided gardening training by a Labuduwa Agrarian Officer to ten selected women-headed families.

Anuradhi completed a Master of Environmental Management at the University of Queensland with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship.

Australia Awards alumna Anuradhi Jayasinghe

Dr Eshantha Ariyadasa, Chairman of Sputnik International Sri Lanka Organization, initiated and ran a Green Energy Liquid Fertiliser Project at the Sputnik Girls Home with the support of his grant. The liquid fertiliser generated by the project through a bio-gas plant was seen as a significant contribution to the government’s policy of promoting organic fertiliser and eliminating chemical fertiliser. The project paved the way for organic farming within the premises of the girls home, which houses orphaned and destitute girls, with the ultimate aim of ensuring food security for the residents.

Eshantha received an Endeavour scholarship to complete a PhD at Flinders University in 2016.

Sarah Soysa, National Programme Analyst – Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Sri Lanka, used her grant to bridge the information gap in awareness of sexual and reproductive health among women and young people with intellectual disabilities. This education project focused on areas such as health and hygiene, menstruation, and contraception. It also produced guidance for parents and guardians of women and young people with intellectual disabilities on how to share information about sexual and reproductive health. The project developed four videos that cater to an audience with intellectual disabilities, created in consultation with relevant specialists. The videos were created in the local languages of Sinhala and Tamil because there is little material on the topics in the local languages that is disability-friendly and reliable. These videos were used in training programs delivered by the Youth Advocacy Network, which was founded by Sarah herself.

Sarah says that this project is an excellent showcase of “what alumni are capable of and how the program has enhanced our capacities and the ability to execute interventions that are truly meaningful, rights-based, non-discriminatory and gender responsive”.

Sarah completed a Master of Development Studies (Gender and Development) at the University of Melbourne in 2015 with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship.

Australia Awards alumna Sarah Soysa


Gayan Dias, former Senior Manager – Corporate Partnerships & Local Fundraising at World Vision Lanka, used the grant to implement a menstrual hygiene management project to raise participants’ awareness of menstrual hygiene management practices and provide them with accurate and scientific information about the female reproductive system. The project benefited 115 women and young girls in Wattala (Western Province) and 110 schoolgirls and 70 women in Nuwaraeliya district (Central Province). Wattala and Nuwaraeliya are areas of contrasts—from extreme wealth to poverty—and gender-related disparities, resulting in significant variation in health and social indicators among girls and women.

“This project helped women to clearly understand the menstrual cycle, value and process of the female reproductive system, misconceptions and myths relating to menstrual cycle and hygiene, and the importance of menstrual hygiene practices,” Gayan says, noting that many organisations and institutions refrain from discussing the topic because of social taboos. The project was delivered with the support of World Vision Lanka.

Gayan completed a Master of Management (Finance) at the University of Melbourne in 2019 with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship and is currently pursuing his PhD at the same university.

A workshop conducted under Gayan’s project on menstrual hygiene

Gowrithasan Nandanashanmugam (Gowri), former Deputy Director of Planning at the District Secretariat Kilinochchi, initiated a project focused on female-headed households in the Kilinochchi district, supporting poultry farming and providing livestock assistance. The grant-supported project targeted three families severely affected by COVID-19 due to the pandemic preventing the wage earners from undertaking their regular daily labour jobs. Kilinochchi is one of the poorest districts in Sri Lanka and the livelihood support provided to these three vulnerable families ensured they received a stable income. The selected beneficiaries were also educated in how to improve their saving habits and develop good financial management practice.

Gowri completed a Master of Rural Development at the University of Queensland in 2016 with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship.

Australia Awards alumnus Gowri (third from the left) together with former Australian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, H.E. David Holly, Mrs. Subramaniyam Manonmany (grant beneficiary) and other Women Development Officers from the Women’s Centre in Kilinochchi, Sri Lanka

We salute all these alumni and the impact they have achieved with the support of their grants. They have well and truly lived up to the aims of Australia Awards – Sri Lanka’s Small Grant Scheme, which was designed to assist proactive alumni to implement activities that contribute to sustainable development in the country.