WWJ in Sri Lanka's Daily News
Women for Women in Jail in Sri Lanka's Daily News

The Idea

The idea for WWJ was born in the beginning of 2017. An ambitious German student came to Sri Lanka for doing social work with AGSEP (Asian German Sports Exchange Programme).

A tv report revealed the significantly high number of Sri Lankan women imprisoned for committing only petty crimes. Often these women lack the financial and juridical support to pay their bail for eventually being releasd from (remand) prison. So she felt the urgent need to support these women by providing them with the help they were lacking.

During the first months of the project, another issue turned out to be of major importance. Often the imprisoned women also lack the social backing for an appropriate care of their underage children. Sometimes they still breast-feed and have no other chance than staying in prison together with their mothers as well. Up to a maximum age of 5 years, children grow up with their mothers in prison. Thus, they experience their first years of life as being spatially heavily limited and highly dependent and influenced by the strict rules, regulations and restrictions of the prison.  It is obvious that this represents disastrous conditions, especially regarding psychological early childhood development.

Moreover, former convicts tend to be socially stigmatized lifelong. A complete social reintegration and rehabilitation is rare making it very hard to find a proper job after release.

The Project

‘I don’t believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is so vertical. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other person. I have a lot to learn from other people.‘ – Eduardo Galeano

Painting at women's part of Welikada prison

Particularly regarding the time after release, WWJ is aiming for a successful reintegration and rehabilitation of these women and children into their familiar social and working environment. Therefore, we offer language classes (English, German), child care and support which are conducted by our staff inside the prisons.

Moreover, we aim to enable the above-mentioned prisoners from underprivileged backgrounds to receive adequate legal and financial support, as well as support for their underage children.

Women for Women in Jail is a project developed under the patronage of AGSEP (Asian German Sports Exchange Programme). AGSEP was founded in 1989 by its CEO Dr. Dietmar Doering. He lives in Sri Lanka for 34 years and works as a consultant for many Ministers up to date. It considers itself not a NGO but a non-commercial AGO (Associated Government Organization). This refers to the fact that AGSEP has always conducted projects in cooperation with a variety of different Government Authorities. It always seeks a constructive dialog and mutual understanding in its proceedings. Concerning WWJ, we are collaborating majorly with the Ministry of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs as well as other Sri Lankan Government Authorities.

Signing the Memorandum of Understanding with the Minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs

Our initiative was born only in January 2017. Nevertheless, you can see in our news blog that we have already made huge steps with our baby shoes towards establishing this project and raising awareness in Sri Lanka. On April 24th, 2017, we were able to set the first milestone by signing the Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Prison Reforms and our party. The foundation for a close and prosperous collaboration for the sake of Sri Lanka’s female prisoners was formed.

Signing the Memorandum of Understanding with the Minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs

The Future

Our future goals are the following:

  • extension of our work from Welikada Prison in Colombo to other prisons on the island
  • set-up of a rehabilitation program to secure job places and to promote talents of the women
  • build-up of a connection network consisting of lawyers, Government Authorities, (inter-)national fundraisers, former inmates and other persons interested in this project
  • raise awareness about this project and the issue itself
  • seeking support from relevant authorities for a start up program to provide pre-school education and entertainment to underage children of inmates

About Us

Our team consists of young and dynamic female human rights activists aiming to bring upon positive change for Sri Lankan ladies currently in custody. On the one hand, we have a group of interning students. They provide relevant expertise in social work or other areas such as public relations and web design. Females from all countries are most welcome to join for an internship! On the other hand, we include Sri Lankan nationals who are absolutely essential as they know the language and system. They represent the perfect bridge.

Through this combination of people from different cultural backgrounds we create an interesting and balanced exchange of opinions and knowledge which makes our work vibrant and energetic!