Zelaya – Research task 1

After a summer abroad, my research topic seemed a little not so adequate anymore. I knew my feelings about my topic would change, what I didn’t know is when, where and why.

Here’s when and where, the month and a half spent in Sri Lanka.

Here’s why…

Morocco and Turkey was a great experience, but brief. It got me thinking about all the different opportunities and topics I could possibly research with all the first hand experience I got. But, I was never able to really delve deep into anything because just as soon as I got a new idea, another experience had me thinking of something else. It was a consequence of the fast paced itinerary we had during our month abroad, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, it got me thinking a lot about a lot.

Skip to Sri Lanka, after the rest of our study abroad group had left and only the few interns stayed back for more weeks of exploring Sri Lanka, on our own terms. Interning with sarvodaya was a worthwhile and enriching experience. I learned a lot about just how a development NGO, and not just any organization, but a Buddhist bottom-up structured organization, works within the country. Sarvodaya could be deemed as a somewhat successful developmental organization with it hands on everything from providing micro-financing to rural communities to providing safe houses for pregnant young women who had been raped and/or abused. Sarvodaya’s reach went all throughout the most remote parts of Sri Lanka affecting over 1500 villages throughout the island. As someone who is very interested in global development, mainly how to best implement development, studying this organizations’ structure and how to replicate and who has replicated it seemed, and still seems like a good idea for a project.

Except for a thought I had during the final weeks on my internship.

The first couple days at Sarvodaya the interns and I were trying to decide just how to best spend our time with the organization. Although I wanted to learn more about Sarvodaya’s development projects I had met a Dutch women, Maraliya, who worked for Sarvodaya as their secretary for the Netherlands. The interesting thing about Maraliya was that she was born in Sri Lanka, to Sri Lankan parents, and adopted by a couple from the Netherlands.  She had met her birth parents 10 years ago and has since then been visiting Sri Lanka every year for about 10 years. She decided to head a research project on the island focusing on young women who have been victims of rape and incest and specifically the cases that resulted in teen pregnancies. She was in the beginning stages of a supplementary research project focusing on why some rape survivors are more psychologically resilient than others, and invited another intern and me to accompany her while she prepared to do her field work.


Meeting her was a stroke of luck, I was able to travel around the Island visiting different women’s centers and meeting the people behind those centers and the women living at them. Both being extraordinary and inspiring people. I learned a lot about sexuality in Sri Lankan culture and just how much of a “sexually closed” culture it was.  I already had an idea about just how modest the culture was, I was told to cover up before going and how to behave. But what I had no idea was jut how at fault women are found for anything having to do with their own sexuality. I had heard a story about a young women being raped by her father, and the village, instead of directing their distaste towards the father, directed it at the young women because for some reason the women HAD to be at fault. She MUST of done something or said something to her father to have him react in the way he did. So shame on her, for being forcibly raped by the one man she’s supposed to trust, for unwillingly losing her virginity, for being a powerless women. The villagers shunned her, the father probably didn’t go to prison but even if he did the punishment for rape is never for more than a couple of weeks. She was forced to uproot her life, while the perpetrator got nothing more than a slap on the wrist at best. I had heard another story about how a women didn’t even know she was being raped because she had no idea what sex even was. It wasn’t until the rape resulted in a pregnancy that she was told she had been abused.


This had me thinking about sexuality in sexually repressed or closed cultures. If people where able to talk about sex freely, educated about it at school or just plain didn’t feel guiltily about it, would there be just as much instances of rape and incest? What could happen in we educated women in sex and sexual health and what is abuse and what is consent? Would that change anything about how rape is handled or viewed in Sri Lankan culture?


So i’m conflicted. Thoughts?


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