Sri Lanka: Kumari Jayawardena

Kumari Jayawardena stands out for her pioneering activism and scholarship on left and feminist issues, and for her ceaseless work on trying to bring an end to the internecine crisis.

— Kumari Jayawardena

Kumari Jayawardena (born 1931) stands out in Sri Lanka and beyond for her pioneering activism and scholarship on left and feminist issues, and for the large number of human rights activists and scholars that she has supported, inspired and mentored over several decades. She has been an extraordinary leader at the national level of crucial feminist campaigns, particularly for bringing about a politically negotiated settlement to the civil war that has been raging in Sri Lanka for over two decades.

Kumari is the daughter of a reputed Sinhala scholar and politician, and a British radical. She was born in Colombo and attended Ladies College. She married an economist who was once ambassador for Sri Lanka at Brussels. With a doctorate in political science, Kumari has taught at the University of Colombo and the Institute of Social Sciences at The Hague, and also pioneered research and analyses on the feminist movement. This multilinguist has traveled throughout Sri Lanka to raise the consciousness of women, support strikes and rallies, advise women's groups and share her thoughts and ideas. Kumari is a remarkable left and feminist scholar, and the author of several books and innumerable articles on labor and feminist movements in Sri Lanka. Her book, "Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World", is regarded as a pathbreaking work on feminism in the south in the 1980s. She writes and teaches feminist history with a special focus on antiracism and women, and has been intimately connected with initiatives for women and peace since the mid 1980s. Kumari initiated some of the first teaching and awareness- raising programs on feminism not just in Sri Lanka but throughout the region. She has also cofounded several feminist journals and magazines, many feminist and civil rights organizations, and has supported, pushed and inspired a formidable array of other causes. Kumari was also the cofounder of one of the country's leading left research organizations, the Social Scientists' Association, set up to create a space for Sri Lankan academics to work and write on social justice. She began her work by focusing on women laborers and socialist activism, and then moved on to issues such as nationalism and gender.

Social Scientists' Association (SSA)