Marini De Livera, A pro bono attorney with a degree in speech and drama from Trinity College London, is an incredible woman – from the island of Sri Lanka. She was honored in Washington DC at an event marking International Women’s Day. Marini is a compassionate lawyer. She was one of 10 recipients of the 2019 International Women of Courage Award presented by the US State Department to women who have risked their lives for peace. She was presented the award by First Lady Melania Trump, in the present of the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.
Speaking at the award ceremony, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Marini De Livera “a crusader against child exploitation.” De Livera has served as the chairperson of Sri Lanka’s child welfare agency, the National Child Protection Authority, and now runs Sisters at Law, an advocacy group for impoverished women and children. She has championed human rights in Sri Lanka.
Marini de Livera is the Founder and Chairperson of Sisters at Law, where she serves as a pro bono lawyer for women and child victims of crime and promotes alternative care for children trapped in orphanages. She uses the visual arts and drama to create legal literacy among the public. She has her own street theater group that travels around the country performing plays related to human rights issues.
Now in its 13th year, the Secretary of State’s IWOC Award recognizes ten women around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk and sacrifice.
The other recipients of the award are: Razia Sultana of Bangladesh, Naw K’nyaw Paw of Burma, Moumina Houssein Darar of Djibouti, Mama Maggie of Egypt, Colonel Khalida Khalaf Hanna al-Twal of Jordan, Sister Orla Treacy of Ireland, Olivera Lakic of Montenegro, Flor de Maria Vega Zapata of Peru, and Anna Aloys Henga of Tanzania.
What really caught my eye was Marini was working with one parent families who for example had children with disabilities – some mothers for reasons of poverty, exhaustion, inability to cope with life, were handing over their children to orphanages.
According to UNICEF, over 80 percent of the 20,000 children in Sri Lanka’s child-care institutions, including orphanages, have at least one parent. Marini de Livera feels that orphanages should be the last resort for children who have at least one parents. She promotes alternative care for these children in Sri Lanka. Her actions are driven by compassion for these children.
Speaking to National Public Radio in the United States, Marini said: ‘I’m working on a street theater [program] to create awareness for parents [and encourage them] not to send their children to orphanages. I’m going to show that family is the place for the child. In Sri Lanka, we have a lot of “social orphans” where they have both parents, but the children are suffering in orphanages.’ Marini added: ‘Some of the mothers are capable of looking after their children, but they’ve handed over their child to an overcrowded orphanage. I’m thinking of giving parenting skills training to these mothers and economically empowering them, finding them a nice home and settling the children with them.’
First Lady Melania Trump speaking at the event said: “Courage is what divides those who only talk about change from those who actually act to change,” Mrs. Trump said. “Courage takes sacrifice, bravery and humility. It is the ability to put others first.” She said courage is one of the qualities we need most in society. US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo said: “We’re here today to honor women of courage from all around the world who are standing tall in the fact of extraordinary adversity. Here at the State Department, stories like these motivate and inspire us. Our colleagues in the Office of Global Women’s Issues work to integrate women’s empowerment into our foreign policy.”
Here are the biographies of the 10 finalists of the US State Department ‘Women of Courage Awards,’ including Marini De Livera’s biography: