Lawyer Activist, SHYAMALA GOMEZ.
I was never a child that grew up saying ‘I want to be a lawyer’. The study of law for me was accidental. It turned out to be a life changing few years. I moved from ‘strict’ law into the area of women’s rights and continue to work in this field today. In those early years as an eager law graduate, I had a few mentors that inspired me with their passion and drive for what they did. The discrimination that women undergo on a day to day basis in Sri Lanka and the fact that many of these women don’t even realize they are being discriminated against inspired and challenged me to find ways and means of addressing this discrimination.
Working in the area of women’s human rights for the past twenty years, I sometimes feel frustrated and feel that all the work that we women activists carry out to empower the women in this country is futile. At other times one feels that every effort will in some way make one’s woman’s burden easier to bear. With that comes the feeling that working in this field is worth it. When a male participant comes up after a particularly tiring training session on women’s rights and says to me ‘thank you for that‘, it all seems worth it.
My work includes research and writing on violence against women, women migrant workers, reproductive rights, women and politics, women and security, women’s land rights and sexual harassment in the workplace. The more I work in these areas, the more I realize how much there is to be done if change is to take place. One has to have the willpower and determination to stick with it and not give up.
I have been an academic, a researcher, a critic, a trainer, a vociferous advocate asking that women are given their due rights at different points in my life. These different roles have made me what I am and enriched my life experiences. My passion for the work I do drives me even when the chips are down.
Photograph by Gerald Pereira