Bhagya Wickramasinghe is a lecturer in law, an Attorney-at-Law, and works as a researcher for Sri Lankan Youth Climate Action Network, an organisation focusing on climate change, youth empowerment, and social justice. She shared her experience of being a young professional and multi-tasking which has allowed her to do work on the causes she believes in.
Education: key to empowerment
Bhagya sees education as playing a key role in empowering people, especially those of vulnerable groups. She highlighted this to be the motivation to choose a career in education.
“As a strong believer in education as a means of empowerment of people, and access to social justice, I wanted to start my career with teaching which was an idea I have carried since my school days. I believe teaching to be one of the greatest services one could do. Law has always been my passion and motivation since from small age I believed that the way to social justice needs to achieved through a country’s legal system,” she said.
Struggles to inspiration
Bhagya says her inspiration to study law, and pursue a career in law stems from the struggles her father faced while she was growing up.
“As a teenager I experienced the bitterness of politics when my father, a judicial officer was unduly victimised by judicial politics. This experience of seeing my father fight injustice inspired me to continue the fight,” she added.
Born in Kandy, she moved to Colombo for her studies. She finds learning to live in the big city without her parents itself to be one of the challenges she faced.
“I came to Colombo when I was 18, a naïve girl who had just passed out form school with big dreams and no practical sense. I was molly coddled by parents and taken care for by them. I was overwhelmed by the Colombo city, its rush, its fast pace and the fact that I had to fend for myself,” she explained.
Being a woman and a young lawyer
When asked whether being a woman had impacted her professional life, Bhagya responded in the affirmative.
“I have faced the tragedy of gender stereotyping in Sri Lanka in many ways, especially in terms of the way in which a young professional woman is viewed by the various segments in the society,” she said.
“The expectations of the society form a female professional is different. I have been viewed as too weak and gentle to handle being a professional and a lawyer. There have been instances where I have been discouraged from various fields of work and research only because I am a woman,” she added.
She believes that being a working woman does not prevent being happy in one’s personal life. She explained that knowing to respect and allocate due importance to professional as well as personal life ensures a balance between the two.
“There have been instances where I have been told that a female engaged in a hectic professional life would end up compromising the social expectations and fulfilling duties of being a woman,” she added. An opinion with which she chooses to disagree.
Knowledge and humanity
Bhagya aspires to engage in her higher education and further research that will help her contribute to the causes she believes in, and aspires to see social justice for all.
“I believe knowledge is a prerequisite of wisdom, and knowledge surrounds us in our daily lives. Wisdom is often found in the experience of others. We need to be sensitive to grasp that knowledge to be more humane and to be nice to each other,” she added.