John Keells Foundation (JKF) - the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) entity of the John Keells Group conducted a public awareness campaign against sexual harassment, targeting commuters of public transport for the second successive year, in commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women falling on November 25th.
Over 125 staff volunteers from across the John Keells Group actively participated in the campaign conducted on November 24th 2017 centred around three of Colombo’s busiest stations – Fort, Maradana and Slave Island railway stations – as well as the railway yard in Colombo and involved pasting stickers inside the compartments and handing out information cards to commuters throughout the day, with the cooperation of the Sri Lanka Railway Authority.
The one-day campaign involved the pasting of 2000 stickers in Sinhala, Tamil and English, with the warning that sexual harassment is a punishable offence under the Penal Code together with the 24-hour police hotline open to victims of sexual harassment, and underlining the public’s individual and collective responsibility to build a society free of harassment.
Approximately 30,000 information cards were also distributed amongst commuters. Accordingly, the campaign is estimated to reach a cumulative total of 70,000 commuters (estimate based on the figures provided by the Railway authority) and 30,000 commuters through the information cards. Parallel to the public campaign, a social media campaign and internal campaign involving awareness material and the distribution of glass bottles with the tagline ‘Zero Tolerance: I stand against Violence’ were also undertaken by JKF as part of the commemorative activities.
John Keells CSR Operations Head Carmeline Jayasuriya stated: “We are delighted to note the success of John Keells Foundation’s second public transport campaign targeting train commuters of the city, following last year’s pilot campaign targeting bus commuters. We consider education and awareness of people as a primary and critical step in changing attitudes and behaviours when it comes to combating gender based violence which has become a growing menace in society.
“The encouraging response we have received from the railway authorities and commuters has amply demonstrated the need for continuing similar campaigns in the future. I must also commend the overwhelming response we received from over 125 John Keells staff volunteers whose enthusiastic engagement enabled us to conduct this public awareness campaign successfully.”
John Keells volunteer who participated in the campaign Lasith Samayawardena said: “This is a strong initiative taken by John Keells to address the pressing issue of sexual harassment in our public transport system. I am happy and proud to be a part of this noble cause for change.”
The public transport campaign was carried out as part of John Keells Foundation’s Project WAVE (Working Against Violence through Education), which is an ongoing long-term initiative on preventing gender-based violence and child abuse through education and awareness encompassing the employees of the John Keells Group, as well as strategic target groups (such as police officers, lawyers, school children and youth), and the general public.
The train campaign is the second initiative conducted for the benefit of the general public, preceded by a bus campaign carried out in 2016. Over 118,700 persons are estimated to have directly benefited from initiatives under the project since its launch in November 2014.