May 15, 2024

Sri Lanka: Equite Sri Lanka’s Regional Expansion Journey Towards Inclusive Empowerment

By: Thusara Manoj, Equite Sri Lanka

Equite Sri Lanka's evolution from local advocacy to regional empowerment is reshaping LGBTQI+ support. With a new focus on community engagement, their Nuwara Eliya office symbolizes a sanctuary for shared experiences. Through partnerships and celebrations, they're fostering inclusivity and influencing policy at the regional level. Despite challenges, their commitment to resilience ensures a sustainable path forward.


Equite Sri Lanka’s work steers beyond regional expansion, which is not just a fleeting aspiration but deeply ingrained in its organizational values. In the initial years of operation, Équité dedicated itself primarily to advocacy and policy-making endeavors. While these efforts were crucial in laying the groundwork for societal change, we were acutely aware of the need to bridge the gap between policy and community engagement.

Through the support of FON, Equite Sri Lanka (ES) has undergone a significant shift in its organizational strategy, now focusing on expanding our reach to the regional level. Our primary objective has extended beyond providing support and resources, to nurturing the inherent potential within the LGBTIQ+ community members residing in the region. By bringing the LGBTQi+ community together, we aim to create a network of solidarity and empowerment, where individuals can share experiences, learn from one another, and collectively advocate for their rights. This way, the organization’s overarching goal extends beyond immediate impact. 

For instance, one of the most remarkable milestones ES reached through the support of FON interventions is the establishment of a regional-level office in the Central Province, Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka. With the establishment of this office, we’ve been able to translate our vision into reality.

Community members interacting at Equite Sri Lanka’s regional office.
“It served as more than just a physical space; it became a symbol of our commitment to fostering inclusivity and support for the LGBTIQ+ community. Through this initiative, we were able to deepen our relationships with community members living in Central Province, cultivating trust, and understanding.

–says Thushara Manoj, Chairperson, Equite Sri Lanka.

From the beginning, ES has harboured a steadfast vision of extending our reach beyond local boundaries to cater to the needs of the LGBTIQ+ community members. Since the inception of the regional office, a wave of excitement has set in among the informal networks within the Nuwara Eliya district, drawing their frequent visitation with eager anticipation.

To them, our establishment represents more than just a physical space; it embodies a sanctuary—a refuge where they can freely converge, exchanging ideas, stories, and forge bonds that transcend boundaries. This surge of interest marks a significant turning point in our journey, symbolizing the birth of a community hub where voices once muted find resonance and validation. It is not merely about providing a venue for expression; it is about nurturing a sense of belonging, a shared camaraderie that binds individuals together in solidarity. As our doors open to welcome like-minded souls, we witness the birth of a vibrant ecosystem where diverse identities converge, fostering a tapestry of mutual understanding and support. In this nurturing environment, shared experiences blossom into seeds of empowerment, laying the groundwork for a stronger, more interconnected community poised to navigate the challenges ahead with resilience and unity.

– Thusara Manoj, Equite Sri Lanka.

As a result of the establishment of the regional office, ES has been able to receive the support and collaboration of the local community in Central Province. The establishment in Nuwara Eliya has opened for further connections and partnerships with the local stakeholders and service providers which together have formed a vibrant network of support and solidarity, united in their commitment to fostering a more inclusive society. For example, in a positive turn of events, we had the opportunity to celebrate Pongal with fellow LGBTIQ+ community members in Nuwara Eliya this past January. These celebratory initiatives hold significant value, offering a sense of belonging and cultural connection for individuals who often face homelessness and societal barriers hindering their ability to authentically celebrate these events being true to their identities.

Community members during a visit

Additionally, ES has been invited to become a member of the Gender Based Violence (GBV) Forum in Nuwara Eliya which hosts organizations such as Women Development Desk, District Secretariat, Sri Lanka Police-Nuwara Eliya, District General Hospital Nuwara Eliya and other civil society organizations. These organizations have been a part of our work especially in actively engaging in expanding their services to LGBTIQ+ community members. Our proactive involvement in the GBV Forum has enabled the organization as a whole to actively participate in regional-level policy-making processes, contributing valuable insights to advocate for inclusive policies benefiting LGBTIQ+ community members.

With the establishment of the regional office, the organization intends to lay the groundwork to expand our network with the LGBTIQ+ community residing in Central Province, particularly focusing on engaging with LBT women in the area. During this course, we’ve been able to successfully convene two meetings with LBT women.

It is important to note the resistance we have encountered, particularly from Lesbian women. Recognizing this challenge as a potential hurdle in our long-term objectives, ES continues to actively explore alternative approaches to engage with the community. Therefore, Equite Sri Lanka pledges to continue to instil a sense of self-reliance and resilience within the community, in order to sustain and perpetuate the momentum of efforts long into the future.