Remembering Sunila Abeysekera
12 September 2013
UN Women mourns the loss of award-winning human rights defender and an internationally renowned activist for gender equality and ending violence against women and girls, Sunila Abeysekera. She passed away in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on 9 September 2013, after a long fight with cancer.
Born in 1952, Sunila worked passionately to defend women's rights and human rights. She led and was a member of many human rights organizations, including INFORM, the Asian Forum for Human Rights Development and the International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific. She was a key participant in many international United Nations fora and conferences and she wrote extensively about violence against women, as well as the links between protection of human rights and gender equality and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
United Nations Human Rights Defenders Award is presented to Sunila Abeysekera, on 10 December 1998, the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She is flanked by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson (left) and Secretary-General Kofi Annan (right). Photo: UN Photo/Greg Kinch
Sunila received a United Nations Human Rights Award in 1998 from Secretary-General Kofi Annan, an award she shares with such prominent defenders as Eleanor Roosevelt and Nelson Mandela.
UN Women had the pleasure and honour to work closely with SuniIa. The International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific, to which Sunila served as Executive Director (2008-2010), has been a long-standing partner of UN Women in supporting the work of the UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and strengthening the engagement of non-governmental organizations in its work.
Most recently, Sunila was actively engaged in UN Women’s preparations for the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW57) in March 2013. She co-chaired an international Expert Group Meeting on the “Prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls,” which UN Women organized with other UN agencies in Bangkok, Thailand, in September 2012 which contributed important thinking to the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
UN Women will honour her memory as an outstanding women’s rights activist and remarkable person.