Ashoka Fellow
Sri Lanka,
Fellow Since 2007
Human Rights Media Resource Center


This profile was prepared when Nandana Manatunga was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
Father Nandana offers an all-encompassing support system for victims of rape and torture in Sri Lanka. Whereas other human rights groups in the region address only the immediate needs of abuse victims, Father Nandana provides victims with a secure and supportive home for their long-term rehabilitation. Victims have access to shelter, security, legal assistance, and psychological rehabilitation, in addition to schooling and financial support during their stay.
The second critical component of his work hinges on media outreach and advocacy for victims’ rights. Working in partnership with other local and international agencies, Father Nandana ensures that cases of abuse are fully documented and publicized in the form of urgent appeals and press releases, thereby strengthening the broader calls for legal reform in Sri Lanka. As a result, more people are coming forward today to report cases of child abuse and rape than ever before. 
Most importantly, Father Nandana aims to cultivate the role of religious leaders and institutions in the defense of victims’ rights. While religious leaders typically shy away from public criticism of the authorities due to fear of retribution, Father Nandana seeks to involve them in professional counseling, court observation, and education sessions. Taking advantage of the visibility and respect afforded to his position, Father Nandana uses religious channels to spread awareness concerning particular cases, and to distribute his calls for legal reform. He firmly believes that religious groups have a moral responsibility to defend basic human dignity, and is thus demonstrating how religious institutions can be transformed from conservative bodies that are commonly indifferent to human rights concerns, to those keenly engaged in their defense.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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