Cosmo SL features Araliya in Empowerful 2018
Araliya Thevapalan is well on her way to becoming one of the nation’s political forces. A commanding presence generally draped in an elegant sari, her appearance is indicative of her career – a dedication to serving the nation, strong values, and a deep Sri Lankan sensibility.
Speaking candidly about the Government and its commitment to gender equality on the island, Araliya expressed her admiration for the recent 25% minimum representation of women in local government – a historic first for the country. The stigma associated with politics, especially the implication of corruption, is a mindset that she thinks ought to change as more educated representatives are brought in, people who can work on a grassroots level and campaign for true equality.
There’s no doubt that change is imminent – a look at last month’s Local Council Election showed an unprecedented 75% voter participation, along with the representation of a number of women and professionals – Araliya included. In fact, she immersed herself in public policy immediately after obtaining her Bachelor’s in International Relations and Global Politics, NTU, UK, as she felt that was where here duty lay rather than the private sector.
Policies & Women
Sri Lanka’s female workforce participation is oddly low for a middle-income country, and the key to changing that is strong government policy. Araliya considers the Government’s push for crèches in factories and workplaces a key development in ensuring that women do not lose employment opportunities due to a lack of child care. Working in the public sector, her recognition of the struggles at hand began on a personal level – it wasn’t easy for her, working as a young woman in her 20’s, trying to navigate entirely male-dominated spheres. She overcame this, in her own words, by “learning to accept and to be accepted, being bold – and never to be underestimated.”
In fact, as the former Sri Lankan-appointed CEO of an international organization committed to promoting equality in the country, Araliya used her decade’s worth of public service to help put in place policies that advocated equality, acceptance, and compassion at an early educational stage.
In order to drive widespread empowerment, leaders need to be trustworthy and relatable even though Colombo is a comparatively liberal, pluralistic society in comparison to the country at large. With her education and experience, Araliya believes she is uniquely positioned as a multi-ethnic individual able to represent multiple facets of the island’s cultural landscape, a fact that she believes will empower other women to speak up too.
She leaves us with her compelling vision, explaining, “I would like to empower the next generation of Sri Lankans to stand up for what is right, and women and men to speak up not just for themselves, but for every self. We are all different, but equally different, and this something to be celebrated and cherished.”
Note: The photo Araliya is holding is one of her proudest moments – when she signed the nomination for the National List.
This article was originally published as ‘Putting the Good in Governance‘ in the March 2018 issue of Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka. For more career advice, grab a copy of our latest magazine.
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