Institute for Social Justice


Cayathri Divakalala

Cayathri Divakalala

Since 2000, I have been engaged in community based development and advocacy programmes, research, academic teaching, and activism. In Sri Lanka, I have worked predominantly in northern and eastern parts of the country, and also in Hambantota and Badulla.

I have worked with broad objectives of challenging patriarchal norms and structures and ensuring women’s rights through various means. These include influencing legal and policy making processes, building networks among women’s and human rights organisations to produce resources on issues in question and to initiate discussion on these subjects. I have also worked on rights of the marginalised groups on the basis of ethnicity, language, religion, class, caste, and sexual orientations. What I have learned in the journey towards positive social change is that adversities do not just victimise people. It also makes them strong enough to practice their agency in forms of negotiations, adjustments and transformations. My doctoral research will be one that consciously deals with such concerns from a feminist perspective.

It is my lived experience in relation to many other researchers/activists/concerned individuals that has led to the conceptualisation of my doctoral thesis that hopes to turn the focus on the lives and voices of marginalised groups within social movements in Sri Lanka. I will use this perspective to evolve a nuanced understanding of social movements and activism in post-war Sri Lanka while pushing the meanings of ‘feminism’, ‘women’s rights’, ‘development’ and ‘civil society’. I also hope to contribute to writing the relatively less documented history of Sri Lanka in general and more specifically the ‘post-war situation’ while making a theoretical intervention in feminist understandings of social movements at large, its strengths, limitations, contours and textures.