IWD 2019: Empowering women in Sri Lanka, one surfer at a time

06 March 2019

From a very young age, the girls and young women of Sinna Ulla, a neighboring village in the Arugam Bay area, have been teaching eager swimmers the tricks of surfing. Some of them have been surfing from as young as 14 and are proud members of the Arugam Bay Girls Surf Club. For a long time, however, they’ve yearned for some form of acknowledgement.

Their wait may now finally be over. Skills for Inclusive Growth, an Australian Government initiative implemented in collaboration with the Sri Lankan Ministry of Skills Development and Vocational Training, hosted the launch of the Arugam Bay Girls Surf Club’s coaching certification by the International Surfing Association (San Diego, California).

Launched during the week of International Women’s Day, this certification marks a pivotal point in the program’s journey to bring positive change in a society and culture where riding the waves for success is not the norm. 

“One of the objectives of the Skills for Inclusive Growth program is to drive economic growth by creating employment opportunities for all, irrespective of gender. It also means having the access to health, education and providing equality of opportunity, empowerment of people and skills development,” said Uthumalebbai Samsudeen, Skills for Inclusive Growth District Coordinator, Ampara.

“We are in indeed honored to be part of this humble Surf Club by assisting them in obtaining the necessary certification so that they will be ale to conduct trainings of their own.”

Skills for Inclusive Growth believes that women are an integral part of the economy, and their empowerment is essential to alleviating poverty and uplifting their own livelihoods.

With the certification, the members of the Arugam Bay Girls Surf Club will become surf coaches and instructors.

“When we talk of the tourism industry and women’s participation particularly in the East, we think of cultural constraints, family pressures and taboo about the tourism industry. But these young women have proved us all wrong,” said Lavanya Christy, Inclusion Officer for Skills for Inclusive Growth.

“They have families of their own but have not let their passion for surfing wither away.”

“Instead they have honed their skills and this certification would go a long way in recognising the impact they have.”

The club’s president, Shamalie Sanjaya, a young mother who watched her brothers surf from a young age, says that it is possible to have a family and still pursue one’s passion. “My husband looks after my child while I surf.  My husband encourages me to go surfing and I am honored that I can train other young girls,” she said.

Nadiya, another energetic and active member of this club, says that her husband encourages her to surf because it’s a skill that not everyone possesses. “Why idle at home when you have a skill which you can pass on to others,’ her husband Thushantha told her. Today, Nadiya’s daughter is also an active member of the surf club.

The certification will enable the young women to provide courses and instruct both locals and foreigners in surfing. It will undoubtedly enhance their ability to generate an income and assist them to find a means of livelihood while following their dreams.

Scope Global delivers Skills for Inclusive Growth on behalf of the Australian Government. 

President of the Girls Surf Club speaks in front of crowd.Woman surfing in the waves.