Empowerment is not a mere gesture of supporting a person in need. Rather, empowerment is all about strengthening one to stand on one’s own feet despite the obstacles that fall in line of the life status, gender, cast and clan. In the modern context, women, who play a major and vital role in the society, are ill-treated and aren’t given the due respect they deserve, basically due to the male domination concept.

Thus, the endless sacrifices they make, hardships they constantly go through go unnoticed and the due respect they deserve hasn’t given to them in manifold times. Therefore, concepts such like Feminism and Women empowerment have come into the visibility of the modern society. Among these, women empowerment is all about equipping and allowing women to make life-determining decisions through the different problems in society. In other words, the equality and the respect they deserve are given to them by honouring all they do and encouraging them to enter into the decision making.

We, JRSS also entered into this very concept through our initiatives in the ECD programme. Considering the 190 teachers not only as beneficiaries, but also as assets for community development, we introduced Women Empowerment Programme in 2018. Through the teachers, JRSS train the women in rural villages in the following programme:

> Awareness creation on socio-political issues
> Supporting Self Help Groups (SHG)
> Conducting General Knowledge test
> Training in Forum Theatres
> Training on group dynamic games and debriefing
> Training in stage performance such as singing, music, acting, and debating.
> Introducing meditation and depth conversation
> INNI-Hereafter-The Graduation Ceremony
> Promoting advocacy

JRSS management team along with the director discusses the current socio- political issues every month and write a two page write up. This write up is disseminated through the monthly newsletter mainly to the field coordinators to be discussed in the monthly meetings with the beneficiaries.

Young people are encouraged to read materials on the current socio-political issues. During the team visits, the management staffs conduct sessions on the topic they read and make further inputs. Thus the grassroots level political thinking is build up in the JRSS working areas.

We encourage field coordinators, staff and the preschool teachers to form and run SHGs in their respective areas. JRSS conduct trainings to the SHG members on group dynamic, report writing, book keeping etc.

At present, 9 SHGs are actively function in Muulaitive district under coordination of Ms. Thayalini Kengathran, the field coordinator of the same district. Members are helped with the revolving fund which they create.

Quarterly general knowledge test is conducted to the preschools teachers and SHG’s members. The first 10 best performers are awarded in the INNI programme.

The management team trains the selected women in the rural villages and some preschool teachers in Forum Theatres such as Playback theatre, theatre of the oppressed and street drama twice a year

We also have worked with a Colombo based organization, Initiatives of Change (IoC) to train our beneficiaries in July-August 2018 in Killinochchi. The main aim of this training was to bring a personal transformation to build an ethical, responsible and harmonious relationship between the parents and the teachers. To achieve this harmonious relationship, the resource person introduced the following activities:

• Spending a time of silence on regular basis to reflect on their thoughts, actions, and behaviour
• Identifying our personal values and put them into action
• Identifying blocks in building healthy relationships and take corrective measures to heal or strengthen personal and professional relationships
• Drawing inspiration from nature to live sensitively and compassionately
• Recognizing our role as global citizens in building an ethical society

These activities were introduced through meditation, screening videos of inspirational stories, introspection, sharing of personal stories and reflection in small family/community groups, team work and use of theatre, art, movement and group discussion to deepen understanding about self, relationships and each one’s role in building a better world.

We also worked with Clown Science Dreams which is an international, a non-profit association, for contributing to the improvement of the quality of life of children, youth, adults, teachers and facilitators, professionals, belonging to or working with people in vulnerable environments. We organized a workshop on clown theatre in September 2018 with Dr Jaume Seuma, Doctor of Chemistry, Science researcher and university professor in Spain and Mrs. Myrea Villarroya, educational director of Clown Science Dream to train the teachers.

The training provided psychosocial support, improvement of communication for development, improving the capacities of the teachers to motivate and engage students through creativity, culture and peace values and reconciliation. All programs are based on the development of Emotional Intelligence, for personal, social and professional development of adults, youth and children in vulnerable situations.

JRSS always follows a participatory approach in all the seminars and workshops. The management team teaches a number of group dynamic games and debriefing to the participants in order to conduct effective sessions when they become facilitators. Thus the participants become reflective on their experiences they had during the game or exercise and relate them to life.

In view of making people more aware and in touch with themselves we, JRSS have introduced a culture of practicing meditation and depth conversation in their daily basis. This in turn will help people at large to be connected with their inner selves for a better decision making and resolving conflicts. The meditations are mainly conducted in the meetings and sessions which are organized by us for the people. These sessions are conducted by well trained personnel in this context.

People generally get frustrated in social situations when it seems everyone wants to discuss superficial, surface-level topics. They are yearning to go to a deeper place in conversations with others. A depth conversation is when one actually and genuinely wants to share and listen. The subject could be whatever. Its mostly about the connection the conversationalists have between them. We introduce the following steps on how to engage in conversation that are satisfying and mentally stimulating.

• Getting maximum information about a topic that needs to be discussed
• Spending time in silence and pondering over the matter
• Identifying one owns feeling-negative and positive while pondering
• Sharing only that feeling and emotion in a small group
• Sharing the feelings after listening to each one in the group
• Discussion on the issue
• Taking final decision
• Thanking to the universal energy for the moment

As a culmination of the training, all the women who participate in the training come together in one place in December to perform cultural programme-“INNI” and receive certificates.

INNI is a platform for the preschool teachers and rural women to exhibit the artistic skills such as singing, dancing, debating, acting, and literary skills such as essay and poetry writing. INNI has been conducted in Vavuniya and Mullaitivu for the past years 2018 and 2019 respectively.

Mrs. Ananthy Sasithran, former minister of woman affairs and social service a Northern Provincial Council, was the chief guest of the event in the year 2018, while Mrs. Santhi Shriskantha Raja, the parliamentarian from Vavni district, was seated as the chief guests of the event in the following year.

190 teachers are awarded with certificates every year in this programme. Around 50 rural women have become office bearers in the village development organizations so far.

Annual advocacy campaign held on 17, December 2019 in Mullaitivu district on child protection

We are on a constant move empowering women and their strategies to the fullest so as to make them as equal and important as men are in the contemporary world.