I grew up in Nittambuwa, Sri Lanka, which was neither country nor town, as the eldest in a family with two other siblings raised by a single mother. Ever since I can remember I was a ‘head inside of a book for hours, can’t hear you talking’ type of a bookworm. But I was also the mischievous, jumping up and down little girl who ran here and there and who just could not keep quiet.
If you would have asked me what I wanted to be when I was a little girl, I always said ‘I want to be a scientist.’ Then, in my late teen years I said, ‘I want to work for women’. Passion for both these areas, science and community work, has been the underlying driving force of all my work.
I received my bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Technology and Management from the University of Peradeniya. I chose Development Communication and Organizational Behavior as my major. This study area was in the agriculture extension side, where I studied Communication, Gender and some Sociology. Having to learn both agriculture and sociological aspects is a great strength to me, because I was able to do a lot of work at the grassroot level and understand the real scenarios which go beyond textbooks.
Even at university, I was engaged with a lot of gender and sustainability related activities. While doing my degree I started working with Dialog Axiata, Sri Lanka’s biggest telecommunication company, on their new platform for women called “Yeheli” (https://yeheli.lk). I started as an intern and eventually took control over the project as a consultant, running “Yeheli” at the mere age of twenty-five. “Yeheli” was Sri Lanka’s first trilingual digital platform (Web and App) where women could ask anonymous questions for free about their mental health, reproductive health, domestic abuse, violence and all the other topics that were considered taboo in Sri Lankan society. During this time, I worked with hundreds of doctors, lawyers and counselors across the country and trained them.
This is how I entered into the world of health, and I am glad it happened. I was armed with experience in different areas, like agriculture, telecommunication, mental health and gender, and could use the knowledge I gained through work at the grassroot levels. ECLIPSE seemed like perfect timing to me. This was exactly what I wanted to do, to work with these communities and to do something that will have an impact, for my doctoral study.
The plan now is to grow with the project, just like I did with “Yeheli”. I will be focusing on the stigma associated with cutaneous leishmaniasis in my study. I will be saying goodbye to my twenties with ECLIPSE. I know ECLIPSE will change me, and I cannot wait to see the new and improved ‘me’ in four years’ time at the end of the project.