Sunila Abeysekera (1952-2013) has been a formative voice in the women's movement in Sri Lanka and in South Asia, as well as in international movements for women's human rights. She was a pioneer in human rights documentation, and started her organization, INFORM, in 1989, to collect information about human rights' abuses at a time when repression and terror in the country was at an all-time high. Sunila passed away on September 9th of 2013.
In 1987, Sunila Abeysekera left Sri Lanka after receiving death threats and witnessing the assassination of a colleague. She lived in The Netherlands for six months, but returned, and is today a single mother of six children, and a women's rights and human rights activist who has lived and worked in Sri Lanka for the past 30 years. Her special focus is on civilians living in war-affected areas, women's rights, and sexual and reproductive rights, including the rights of communities such as sex workers, people living with HIV/AIDS, and lesbian, gay and transgender persons. In 1989, Sunila helped establish INFORM, which documented human rights' abuses at a time when repression and terror in Sri Lanka were peaking. By bringing it before the international community, she played a critical role in seeking redress for human rights' abuses. Since the late 1970s, she has been a key member of civil society groups working for a negotiated solution to the conflict. Sunila's most effective contribution to women's rights and human rights is through her work at bridging the divide between these two areas. She prepares short and easy-to-understand pamphlets in Sinhala. She has worked with women's groups and social activists on ways to introduce basic concepts of nonviolent ways of conflict resolution, focusing on a feminist perspective on the issues of militarization, conflict, conflict transformation and peace-building. Her experience in bringing together communities of women has been drawn upon by women activists in Gujarat, the Indian Northeast, Uganda and Timor Leste. Sunila believes that her biggest challenge has been to combine single parenting with her activism. Her comment on receiving the UN Human Rights Prize from Kofi Annan was, "At last my children will see that what I do is recognized as worthwhile!"