From where I stand: “Our goal is to provide a home that offers love, care and protection for women with disabilities”

Dulmini Bandara is the Officer-in-charge at Manusath Piyasa – a shelter for women with disabilities operated by the Social Services Department in the Rathnapura District in Sri Lanka. She has been working as a Social Services Officer for over 18 years supporting women who have faced violence and abuse.

Dulmini Bandara at her workplace in Balangoda, Sri Lanka on 29 August 2023. Photo: UN Women Sri Lanka/Avindi Perera

“The Manusath Piyasa shelter opened in February 2023. Before… there were no state operated shelters for women with disabilities, especially for survivors of violence and abuse, and there was a significant need for this.

Women are referred to this shelter for three key reasons: for having a disability, not being cared for or having experienced violence or abuse in their own homes. Based on the capacity and resources we have, we welcome women with disabilities between the ages of 16 – 60, from any part of the country.

Through this shelter, our goal is to provide them with a home that offers love, care and protection.

We know that everyone here has different capabilities, even if each person perceives things differently. This is why my colleagues and I go the extra mile to make sure that each person has the opportunity to learn and enhance their skills. There is never a dull day here. Every day is packed with different activities that aid their skill development. We end each day with a positive attitude, being grateful for what we learnt during the day. Inner peace is what we try to cultivate – when we have peace in our minds, we can create peaceful societies.

Even during the peak of the economic crisis, when we had less access to food and there were delays in receiving provisions, we took every challenge positively. We were self-sufficient, we grew our own food, and we navigated tough times together as a family.  

Because of this positive environment that we try to create, the faces we saw on the first day are not the faces we see today. The women in this shelter have gone through many struggles in life, and some have been disowned by their families or shunned by society at large.

But we accepted them.

We showed them love and respect to the point that they now call us ‘Amma’ [Mother].

The commodities and support provided by UN Women is a strength for us. When we don’t have to worry about securing basic necessities, we can use that time and energy to help uplift the women we serve.”

UN Women’s project ‘Empowering Women in Crisis’ (February 2023 – January 2024) funded by the Government of Japan provides emergency relief and support to women most affected by the socio-economic crisis in Sri Lanka. Dulmini Bandara manages one of the 11 women’s shelters being supported by the project.