In March 2015 the vision impaired women celebrated the International Women’s Day at The Sri Lanka Federation of the Visually Handicapped. It was a day filled with laughter, fun and excitement for vision impaired women. There were competitions for singing, poetry and essays. The guest speakers were Ms. Sandhya Kodduruarachchi, The Principal of School for the Blind in Ratmalana, Ms. Sulochana Sigera, Chair Person Women in Management and Ms. Manique Gunaratne. Vision impaired ladies from The E.F.C. I.C.T. Training Centre participated at this event and won many competitions and received gifts from the Chief Guest. Empowering women with disabilities is very important to make them independent. Most vision impaired women are marginalized due to lack of education, vocational training and employment opportunities. The society must realize that vision impaired women are precious and all mankind should be educated towards women with disabilities.
The “Women in Management Genre of Excellence Professional and Career Women Awards” was held on 25 July 2014 at Hotel Taj. The Professional & Career Women Awards, which is an integral part of the Sri Lankan business calendar for the fourth consecutive year, celebrating the achievements of some truly remarkable women in the country. The awards recognize the achievements of women for their professional or entrepreneurial milestones and to those demonstrating outstanding leadership and managerial qualities in their respective fields, contributing significantly to society and the country’s development. The evening was glamorous, uplifting and inspiring. Guests got the chance to mingle with the stars, sit back and listen to music performed by inspirational artists and hear the stories of women who were being celebrated for a whole range of different reasons. This was a beautiful event and included a ‘red’ carpet and publicity photos. The event had great celebrity attendees and press coverage. The Chief Guest was Hon. Minister Basil Rajapakse Minister of Economic Development along with the Guest of Honour, High Commissioner Her Excellency Shelley Whiting – High Commission of Canada. Ms. Manique Gunaratne of The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon was awarded the “Most Inspirational Woman of the year on Special Skills for the exceptional Skills and Achievements as a Woman”.
She was the only award winner to receive a standing ovation by the audience.
Smart Cane device is an electronic travel aid used in conjunction with a normal white cane that assists a visually impaired person in mobility and navigation.
While the normal white cane can only detect obstacles up to knee height, this device is capable of detecting obstacles from knee to head height. In other words, the Smart Cane is not meant to replace the white cane but to augment its functionality. It can detect obstacles up to 3 meters when used outdoor and up to 1.8 meters when used indoor. With this increased range, it warns the users about impending obstacles before possible collision happens and helps in finding collision-free paths.
Smart cane device is not meant to replace white cane but to augment its functionality.
The benefits of using the SmartCane device are as follows:
- It helps to detect knee-above obstacles which are usually not detected by the white cane. Such obstacles might include a tree branch, underside of a car, hanging cloth strings, protruding window air conditioners, etc. As these obstacles usually pose a risk of injury to the head and upper part of the body, it is critical to detect them early.
- It increases the detection range to 3 meters in the long-range mode and to 1.8 meters in the short-range mode. The enhanced detection range helps in informing the user about the presence of obstacles much before touching the actual obstacle. An object as big as wall and as small as a 3 cm wide raised pipe at 3 m can be detected from mentioned distance. This early detection helps in avoiding unwanted collisions.
- It helps in finding collision free-paths while walking by detecting and avoiding obstacles.
In March 2015 The Indian Institute of Technology gave a smart cane training for a group of vision impaired persons at The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon. Ms. Manique Gunaratne is also a proud user of a smart cane.
Many vision impaired persons in Sri Lanka are confined to the four walls at home. Research shows that lack of education, lack of vocational training makes them more dependent. Vision impaired persons at the very grassroots level do not get the relevant information for various services and facilities available for them. It is important for vision impaired persons to know their rights in order to be empowered. Some rights cannot be met individually. It has to be done through advocacy and lobbying through institutionalizing. Working as a pressure group will also assist them to meet their rights. In order to make the vision impaired persons strong in their rights The Sri Lanka Federation of the Visually Handicapped and Myright Sweden organized a workshop for vision impaired persons in Kegalle and Kandy districts at the Kandy Y.M.C.a. in July 2014. These information should reach the very grassroots level. Ms. Manique Gunaratne did a presentation on “Importance of vision impaired women to institutionalize.
The Canadian High Commission and W.U.S.C. (World University Services in Canada is implementing the ASSET (Advancing Special Skills for Economic Transformation) Project. The team will focus more on women, youth and will also include persons with disabilities. The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon will support to develop the skills of persons with disabilities. In March 2015 the Canadian High Commissioner, Her Excellency Shelley Whiting held a reception to introduce this project at the Canada House. There were representatives from the High Commission of Canada, representatives from W.U.S.C., public and private sector companies and vocational training institutes. Ms. Manique Gunaratne was also invited for the reception.
The South Asian Workshop on “Advancing the Rights of Women with Disabilities Through Networking and Capacity Building for Advocacy”, was organized by the National Federation of the Disabled in Nepal and Abilis Foundation, in Katmandu, Nepal in July 2014.
The South Asian Women with Disabilities Network (SAWDN) is a collaborative loose (unregistered) forum among Women with Disabilities in South Asian Region for the promotion of rights and opportunity of persons with disabilities in the region especially women with disabilities. It is a regional level Network established by Women with Disabilities who have been contributing in disability sector Nationally, Regionally and Internationally.
The existence of Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), 2006 has changed the landscape of the disability worldwide; however the issues and concern of women with disabilities in developing countries including South Asia do not seem to be adequately addressed. Thus, this network is designed / established as a common forum to advocate and lobby for the promotion of rights of women with disabilities as envisioned in the CRPD. Thus the Network will contribute for the effective implementation of the CRPD to promote and strengthen rights and opportunity for women with disabilities in these regional-countries.
Several efforts are made to implement the CRPD and to promote and strengthen rights of women with disabilities worldwide including in South Asian countries. However, the rights and issues of women with disabilities in South Asian region do not seem to be adequately addressed. Some policies, laws, Acts at national level are amended and enacted but the concerns of women with disabilities are left behind in these respective countries.
South Asian Countries are organized under a regional organization i.e. South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC), however there is not such common agendas and forum for joint advocacy and lobby for the promotion of rights of persons with disabilities so far in this region. It has been strongly realized that Regional body should contribute in promoting rights of persons with disabilities in line with the CRPD. Further, a functional network of the right-holders including women with disabilities is expected to be established to promote disability rights and CRPD in the region. Thus, this network targets for regional collaboration and cooperation of the South Asian countries to empower and development of the women with disabilities and to eliminate all kinds of violence and discrimination against women with disabilities through consolidated effort. The network is expected to contribute to break the barrier faced by women with disabilities in South Asian Region. Further, it works for the promotion and protection of rights of women with disabilities as envisioned in the CRPD. It will work as a change agent to bring quality of life of women with disabilities in South Asian Region in the long term. Thus, in order to establish and run the network formally, organized this workshop in Nepal as per following broader outline.
The overall objective of the workshop was to promote rights of women with disabilities in South Asian Region in line with the CRPD. The specific objectives of the workshop included the following:
- To establish the network formally, through a declaration by leaders of women with disabilities of South Asian Region.
- To develop and adopt objectives and working methodology of the Network in promoting and advancing the rights of Women with Disabilities in South Asia region.
- To develop a capacity building mechanism and advocacy strategies of the Network to promote CRPD and rights of women with disabilities in the region.
- To develop framework / action plan for mainstreaming disability into development in South Asian region
- A functional regional network was established to promote the rights of persons with disabilities especially women with disabilities as envisioned by the CRPD.
- A concrete document incorporating objectives and area of work of the organization was developed and adopted.
- A way forward for capacity building of women with disabilities and advocacy strategy of the Network was adopted.
- A joint action plan to mainstream disability into human rights and development agendas in South Asian Region was developed and adopted.
Ms. Manique gunaratne was a resource person and conducted one session on “Include women with disabilities in the development agenda with regard to United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Incheon Strategy”.
The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon started training with a new group of vision impaired persons on Microsoft Word at The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon, I.C.T. Training Centre, in February 2015. Up to date Ms. Manique Gunaratne of The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon have trained 157 vision impaired persons on different courses on information technology. Following are the new batch of trainees.
1 Ms. Nadishani Jayathilake (Job seeker)
2 Mr. Thirukumaran Ramasamy (Job seeker)
3 Mr. Priyantha Kosala (Massarge Therapist at Thushare Talking Hands)
4 Mr. Gayashan Sumihira (Massarge Therapist at Thushare Talking Hands)
5 Mr. Vijakamara Thavaraja (Massarge Therapist at Thushare Talking Hands)
6 Mr. Dhananjaya Lakmal (University Student)
7 Mr. Tharindu Rajamanthri (Job seeker)
8 ms. Isuru Ayeshmi (Graduate from University of Sri Jayawardanapura)
In August 2014 the Daily Financial Times news paper published an article with a photograph titled “Manique Gunaratne, the Proud Winner of W.I.M. Award”. You can read the article on the following link.
http://www.ft.lk/2014/08/11/manique-guneratne-proud-winner-of-award-from-women-in-management/ -here is the link
The IBrailler software assist vision impaired persons to type in Braille in an Ipad which will convert into sighted letters. The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon I.C.T. Training Centre headed by Ms. Manique Gunaratne together with the vision impaired trainees supported the developers by checking the accessibility by providing them with new ideas. In March 2015 Sunday Times news paper published an article about the IBrailler software. It acknowledges the support given by the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon. Please read the article for more details about the IBrailler on:
Most vision impaired persons lack in their leadership skills. Due to attitude barriers and family barriers most vision impaired persons confine to the four walls of the house. It is very important to improve the leadership qualities of vision impaired persons in the very grassroots level. In order to address the above issue the Sri Lanka Federation of the Visually Handicapped and Myright Sweden organized a workshop for vision impaired persons in Gampaha, Kurunegala and Kandy districts in August 2014. The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon I.C.T. trainees were also included in this training in order to develop their leadership qualities so that it will improve their employability skills. It is also essential to educate them in their rights. Ms. Manique Gunaratne did the training on the United Nations Convention on rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)