By: Amanda J. Van Dort
Sri Lanka Country Director
“There are many stages in our life, and I believe a woman has the strength to face any challenge.”
Emerge Peer Educator and Past Participant
A Starbucks YouthAction Grant was awarded to Emerge Lanka Foundation to run our “Life Skills” Program. The Emerge Life Skills Program equips Sri Lankan teenage girls who have survived abuse with critical skills for healthy and independent living. Many of these survivors have lost access to formal education and traditional support systems (such as family) and find it difficult to support themselves upon leaving the shelters they have been placed in for protection.
Through Emerge’s workshop series, the girls become empowered to plan for their futures and improve their own communities. In the past few months, the girls have been participating in a Reproductive Health Course, which was developed in conjunction with the International Youth Foundation. It has been adapted to Sri Lankan culture and for the unique situation of our target population. The majority of our participants are victims of sexual assault/abuse and many of them are teenage mothers due to rape and, often, incest. The Reproductive Health curriculum is critical in empowering the girls to take back ownership of their bodies, as with knowledge comes power. This part of our program enables participants to take care of themselves and their children, and, in turn, explain a problem they have to a doctor.
The curriculum begins with Personal Values, teaching the girls how to examine the relationship between values and behaviors. Next, the girls learn about Puberty, Reproduction, Teenage Pregnancy, and Contraception. The second half of the course covers Sexually Transmitted Infections; HIV/AIDS; Substance Abuse; Gender Roles and Stereotypes; and Gender-Based and Sexual Violence. Our ultimate goal is to empower a generation of women to change the landscape of violence, challenge unhealthy norms, and pass on a new set of values to their children. Societal change can start with one person, and we believe that each Emerge participant has that potential.