Sisters at Law initially started as an organisation focussing on legal aid and advocacy to help victims of domestic and institutional violence. But soon it became apparent that social services in Sri Lanka do not offer adequate long-term support for survivors. That is why we started to provide additional programmes which help to fill those gaps.
Some of our programmes are inspired by the evidence-based work of the PACE Centre for Girls in Florida, USA. Our founder, Marini de Livera, visited the organisation during her journey to receive the International Women of Courage award in 2019. Similarly to PACE, we believe that all girls and women deserve an opportunity to find their voice and potential while being able to live a dignified, peaceful and happy life. We do so through education, livelihood programmes and advocacy.
We are guided by people-centred and strength-focussed principles. When our beneficiaries join us through our shelters or other programmes, we take the time to get to know them individually. Girls are given the chance to study for a career of their dreams and women are supported to pursue a livelihood which suits their wishes and needs.
What We Do
Survivors of GBV and other types of violence are offered legal aid through our organisation. Not only does this include free legal advice, but also pro bono representation in court.
Additionally, we have access to a large network of lawyers, counsellors, doctors, community leaders and youth groups. Because our contacts are well-immersed into their local communities, they can identify deserving individuals and refer them to us. Thanks to their help, we can reach potential beneficiaries more effectively.
Sisters at Law operates two “Surakshi” (safe) shelters. One is in Colombo and one in Galle. These shelters are a response to the gap in long-term accommodation for survivors of violence. Hence, there is no maximum stay for our residents.
Not only lodge and food can be accessed at our shelters, but also skills trainings, income generation activities and schooling support for children. In addition to that, we aim to create a community atmosphere within the shelters. As a result, our beneficiaries can get back on their feet in peace and with joy.
We believe that education is key to empowering women and girls. Our education programme is strongly inspired by the work of PACE Centre for Girls. Sisters at Law offers a safe environment for girls and women to study and learn new skills. Each school-aged child receives an individual learning plan based on their strengths and interest. We organise personal tuition and group study sessions which are run by our enthusiastic and ambitious staff.
Both following the Sri Lankan national curriculum and enhancing it with creative and engaging learning experiences, we ensure that each child is well-prepared for their exams while also enjoying to learn. Monitoring each student’s progress, we want to give every child the opportunity to pursue their dream career. Finally, parental involvement is also highly valued at Sisters at Law which is why we empower parents to actively contribute to their children’s education.
Sisters at Law runs several women empowerment projects, such as workshops on managing finances, employability training and income generation activities. We coach women during their job search, help them to write a resume and practice interview skills.
As part of this, it is our aim to empower our beneficiaries to become financially independent. Hence, Sisters at Law provides livelihood support next to our training and economic activities. For example, this support includes provision of initial capital, raw materials and access to markets.
We conduct research on social and legal issues. Additionally, we advocate and lobby for law reforms on issues around women’s and children’s rights. For example, we have developed recommendations with regard to care alternatives to orphanages. Furthermore, we aim to publish papers in Sinhala, English and Tamil in order to stir discussions and debate.
Sisters at Law organises awareness projects to increase legal literacy in Sri Lanka. As part of this, we try to accommodate our activities to various types of audiences: young and old, women and men, with high and low levels of education. Hence, our campaigns runs both online and offline. We can be found on social media, including our YouTube channel discussing legal topics. Marini De Livera also regularly appears on TV and participates in webinars.
Creativity and fun is at the heart of our campaign activities. That’s why Sisters at Law brought a travelling street theatre project to life. We also have a mascot: Bindoo Bird. It teaches children and adults about their human rights and duties in an accessible and fun way.
Our organisation provides female lawyers and law students with study materials and offers professional networking opportunities. For example, we are establishing a fully equipped resource centre. This centre will offer access to up-to-date books, legislation and case studies. Moreover, it is our goal to establish a pool of female mentors who can accompany law students and attorneys in the early stages of their careers.
In addition to that we organise CPD courses. These courses are aimed at pro bono lawyers and other legal aid providers who want to improve their practice in relation to women’s and children’s rights.