Octogenarian teacher, psychological counsellor, social worker and child rights activist, Gethsie Shanmugam, who is a recipient of this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Awards, explained that both sides had suffered in the over three-decade-long ethnic conflict that ravaged the country.
The 83-year-old was awarded such for her work conducted during the war in conflict zones with internally displaced persons, war widows, their families and children and adolescents including victims like orphans, street children, child soldiers and children of migrants, amidst bombing campaigns and threats of arrest.
The awards are scheduled to be made on August 31, in Manila in the Philippines.
Whilst announcing that she was shocked to hear the news of the award, something which had never been expected by her, Shanmugam said that the award belonged to the nation. She informed that she was simply a grass root level worker. She added that although she could not attest to her efficiency due to her advanced age, she was currently involved with the World Health Organization in conducting a programme (which also involved a meditation session in both Sinhala and Tamil languages) in Vavuniya. She is credited with helping develop a model for the kinship fostering of orphaned children to protect them from institutionalization and armed recruitment, the supporting of widows and their families to overcome vulnerability and stigma, providing services for street children that offered nutrition, safety and forms of appropriate education and the training of pre-school teachers and caregivers on culturally grounded approaches to emotional and social development.
“Both sides suffered, especially the children and women. We are for everybody. This award belongs to everybody,” Shanmugam pointed out.