Case Studies

The Stigma Talk Show: Real Stories from Season Two

November 2023 | SRI LANKA

In a trailblazing collaboration with iProbono, the Stigma Talk Show returned for its much-anticipated second season on digital platforms in June 2023. The show saw over 1 million viewers across YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook, engaging in a meaningful public conversation on some of Sri Lanka’s most pressing – and often ignored – social issues and realities. 

The show brought together prominent social activists whose rich insights and lived experiences opened up new perspectives into the challenges faced by vulnerable communities in Sri Lanka. Expertly hosted by Aritha Wickramasinghe, iProbono’s Equality Law Director and a long-standing advocate, the guests reflected on a range of topics including domestic violence, women in business, matters relating to the LGBT+ community, and gender-based challenges. 

Here’s a recap of the episodes:

Reproductive Rights: Navigating choice and controversy
The series opened with a powerful discussion by women and children’s activist and mental health advocate, Kumudini Perera-David, who  shared her  personal journey through the often stigmatised topic of abortion. Her frank and emotional account set the tone for the season, challenging societal norms and advocating for personal choices.

The choice to remain single: Rethinking traditional expectations
In episode 2,  motivational speaker and talk show host Shanuki de Alwis explored the social stigma and misconceptions surrounding unmarried women in Sri Lankan society. Her narrative highlighted the unjust pressures placed on women to conform to traditional norms and the importance of breaking free from these stereotypes.

Overcoming the shadow of sexual abuse: “I was abused by my mother’s boyfriend at the timeEntrepreneur Ashwini Aiyar delved into a painful but vital topic, shedding light on her experience with sexual abuse by someone she knew. Her courage in speaking out about her trauma serves as an inspiration for other survivors who were failed by the system.

Having it all: Breaking gender stereotypes in the corporate sector
Prominent corporate leader and the first female CEO of a publicly quoted conglomerate in Sri Lanka, Kasturi Chellaraja, shared her experiences as a female leader in Sri Lanka. Her insights into overcoming gender-related challenges resonated with aspiring businesswomen in particular, inspiring them to strive for equality in the workplace.

Public Sexual Harassment: Pushing for safer public spaces
Entertainer Krishni Iresha confronted the rampant issue of sexual harassment in public spaces. Her story raises awareness and encourages a collective effort to combat this problem and make public spaces safer for all.

Sexuality and Norms: Premarital sex and sexuality
Activists Chris and Meshaal discussed the unspoken norms surrounding premarital sex and sexuality in Sri Lankan society. By breaking down these taboos, they created an open dialogue that is essential for young adults navigating their way through complex social expectations.

LGBT+ Acceptance: A journey of resilience and truth
Human Rights activist Kiruthika Thurairajah shared her story of being a lesbian in Sri Lanka and her painful experiences with abuse from her mother. Her narrative helped create empathy and understanding, encouraging the community to be more accepting and supportive of LGBT+ individuals.

Gender Identity: Self-discovery and Acceptance
The season concluded with an impactful episode featuring LGBT+ activists Navoda Bennett and Thilina Wijeratne, who shared their journeys of self-discovery and the challenges they faced in accepting their gender identities. Their resilience and candid self awareness contributed to the ongoing conversation about gender diversity in Sri Lanka.

Capturing the Hearts of Lanka: A Glimpse into Local Engagement

Throughout the season, the Stigma Series created a storm of audience engagement, facilitating conversations that challenge societal norms and prejudices. Social media buzzed with discussions, and community dialogues were initiated. Many viewers shared their own stories and experiences related to the featured topics. 

Reflecting on the topic of abortion, one viewer commented, “I have mixed emotions about this subject. There are questions, pros and cons to be weighed…The women who come on this program and discuss subjects that generally people want to sweep under the carpet, so to speak, are very courageous!” 

Another, in relation to the topic of sexual harassment, commented, “I think certain women, like me, come to a point in life that, we know the chances of getting someone’s help when we speak out is low…but we still speak up…We keep letting people know that it’s not right and we don’t like what’s being done. We keep trying to educate the younger generation, whenever we can by having a discussion about empathy. So thank you for having these discussions

Empowering Change 

By bringing hidden realities to the forefront, the second instalment of the Stigma Series shattered the silence surrounding sensitive topics in Sri Lankan society. By sharing intimate stories of activists and prominent figures, the series has ignited conversations that will continue to challenge societal norms and bring about a more inclusive and compassionate future for all. Viewers have been inspired to confront their own biases, support survivors, and reevaluate their perceptions and judgments, ultimately contributing to positive social change.

iProbono is proud to have built this partnership with Pulse Media, which has set such a powerful precedent for open dialogue in Sri Lanka.

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