Marini De Livera is the founder and Chair of Sisters-At-Law, one of the organizations with whom we are partnering in our outreach, fundraising, and the documentary itself. Marini is a champion of women’s and children’s rights in Sri Lanka. She is a former Chairperson at the National Child Protection Authority and a former National Project Professional at the United Nations.
During pre-production back in April earlier this year, Doyel and I met with Marini and her team. She was one of the first allies who came on board with our film’s mission. She graciously invited us to the shelter in Colombo where we met the women and children who live there. The pure joy in the home was palpable from the moment we were welcomed inside. The residents’ artwork decorated the walls and sewing machines and books were abundant. They cooked and served us a delicious rice and curry lunch and then entertained us with one of their plays. Marini uses art, dance, and dramatic therapy to help survivors of abuse transform their trauma into healing. The girls and young women narrated, acted, sang and danced short vignettes that rewrote their memories and trauma of abuse into stories of triumph and survival. The smiles on our faces were ear to ear as we sat as audience members and it was hard to leave. We look forward to returning with the film crew to capture the uplifting and amazing work being done and the hope and change it’s making.
I asked Marini to write a brief update for us on the current situation at the shelters. Here is what she reports:
The residents are survivors of trafficking, unwed mothers ostracized by their families and communities along with their babies, victims of domestic violence, and victims of parental abuse and sexual violence.
We prepare their documents and appear in their court cases, free of charge, and clear their obstacles so that they can realize their dreams. We are registered with NGO Secretariat of Sri Lanka and the Department of Probation and Child Care.
The Sri Lankan Alternative Care Policy was approved by the President and Cabinet of Ministers on the 6th of March, 2019. It is yet to be implemented. Sisters-at-Law is putting a great deal of pressure to make the policy for Alternative Care for Children a ground reality.
The Policy under Alternative Care options speaks of “family-like care.” That is what Sisters-at-Law shelters in the 2 provinces try to do. The goal of family-like care is to provide autonomous care to small groups under conditions that resemble a family environment.
We also provide Emergency Foster Care to children of “unwed” mothers who are rejected by their families. We take every measure to live like a proper family although it is an artificially created one. The following programs are carried out in the shelters:
- Art Therapy
- Dance Therapy
- Income Generation
- Activity Skills Training
- Life Skills Training
- Team Building & Positive Thinking
- English Language & Effective Communication
- Classes presenting for exams conducted by Colombo Academy of Language, Speech and Dramatic Art (a local examination body)