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“One cannot win or achieve the great by always siding with the wrong even if it is done by many”: Dr. Dayani Panagoda

9 November 2022 10:01 am

Words : Aanya Wipulasena
Photos : Nirmala Dhananjaya

Dr. Dayani Panagoda is a trailblazer who is actively making positive changes in Sri Lanka. Winner of the N-Peace award in 2019, for her incredible work in promoting work for women, peace, and security, Dr. Panagoda is a true woman leader who Lanka Woman celebrates. She is a policy specialist, strategist, and practitioner in reconciliation and coexistence, and works to promote women’s peace and security across the island. She also researches and promotes women-led SMEs, especially focusing on marginalised women in society. Lanka Woman had the privilege of speaking to Dr. Panagoda for this month’s issue. Read our exclusive interview below. 

Hello Ms. Panagoda, we are happy that you made time for us. Can you tell us about your work?

I would like to introduce myself as a development practitioner, lecturer, trainer, facilitator, policy specialist, activist, game changer, and most of all a human being. I am a lawyer by profession and completed my higher studies with a PhD. I am a widow and I lost my husband to the war. He was in the Navy and lost his life whilst on active duty. I never saw his mortal remains and the hope to see him one day alive kept me going for a long period of time 

You are a winner of the N-Peace award in 2019 for Sri Lanka, awarded by the UN. What was it like to be a recipient of the prestigious award?

This yearly award is to recognise the peace-builders and activists in the region and I am humbled to be the recipient. I believe that this award is an endorsement of my work in Sri Lanka as an activist to mobilize people and resources for peacebuilding and work in the area of women, peace, and security

Do you think we have enough programmes in place to help women-headed households? What else should be done especially during the economic crisis?

I am not happy at all when it comes to empowering women and especially focussing on women-headed households where a quarter of households in Sri Lanka are women headed as per data available in 2021and there is no strategic drive to address their needs. Although we have many reports on the challenges they face and surveys to tell us the gaps the services to bridge the gaps and improve their lives are negligible. 

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