On June 21st, hundreds of schoolboys from reputed Colombo schools filed into Viharamahdevi Park. They had one aim: to make a difference in their city by taking a stand against the harassment of women in public spaces. These young men pledged to travel on the busiest bus routes in Colombo in teams of three, addressing commuters on the issue of harassment of women.
Starting Monday, June 25th, hundreds of young men boarded buses according to a previously formulated strategic plan. During the course of the campaign which lasted one week, over one thousand buses were covered, reaching over thirty thousand commuters in Colombo. The young men, apologized to women in the buses for any harassment they have encountered in the past, providing them with information on legal recourse available to them if they experience such treatment in the future. Next they charged the men to take the responsibility to safeguard this right and the negative reflection on them, if they fail. The response from the commuters on buses was astounding. Passengers on the buses, both male and female, were very responsive to the campaign. Many encouraged the efforts of the young men, asked for more information about the campaign and Sri Lanka Unites. The passengers were eager to engage in conversations regarding the issue of harassment on public transportation and were heartened by the efforts of the young men to attempt to resolve this problem in the city of Colombo.
Prashan De Visser of Sri Lanka Unites had the following to say regarding his experience with the campaign:
“For many years I was disheartened by the silence about the harassment of women in public transport, I was disappointed by my own insufficient action. Sri Lanka Unites SHOW YOU CARE campaign broke the silence, went to root of the issue. Over 1000 buses across Colombo were visited by young men who stood up, spoke up and informed about the law. They spoke to passenger in Sinhala and Tamil, They handed cards with new emergency numbers for this issue and pasted stickers/posters on every bus with reminders about law. Tangible result - offenders on the buses while we were speaking were rebuked, corrected or backed off themselves, many passengers appreciated the call to be vigilant and not turn the other way and many women were thankful for the cards and effort. Very proud of the student volunteers from the leading boys schools in Colombo and their amazing mentors.”
In appreciation of all who participated in the event, Sri Lanka Unites will be hosting Show You Care Showdown; an evening of testimonials and entertainment for the volunteers and their mentors. There will be a variety of musical performances surrounding the theme, with school choirs of leading Colombo schools and some well-renowned artists and bands. In addition to reporting on the results and efforts of the campaign and showing appreciation to all those who participated, this event will focus on pledging allegiance to eliminating harassment of women from the city of Colombo. Come be a part of the SHOWDOWN!