CWGL’s tribute to our dear friend Sunila Abeysekera

The Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) mourns the loss of our beloved colleague whose strong political voice, smiling face, generosity of spirit, forceful determination and commitment have accompanied us throughout our history of working for human rights and justice. Sunila was a courageous feminist and human rights activist from Sri Lanka who played a major leadership role not only in South Asia, but also in the global women’s and human rights movements. She lived a life on the forefront of many social movements, fighting relentlessly for justice and human rights—for women and on behalf of all those who experienced identity-based discrimination, persecution and marginalization, whether on the basis of race-ethnicity, class, gender or sexual orientation. For more information on Sunila’s work, visit

CWGL has counted Sunila not only as a longtime colleague, but also as one our guiding lights in addressing women’s human rights. She offered her advice and time to us generously over many years. She brought her unique and powerful presence to many of our endeavors from the Global Campaign in Vienna and the Human Rights Commission/Council in Geneva to leadership institutes and strategic conversations held at Rutgers University in New Jersey as well as with the Women Living Under Muslim Laws network in Istanbul and Lagos.

In 2003, she was a visiting global associate at CWGL. During that time, she participated in our commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the United Nations World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna. She also helped shape our work on women human rights defenders, imperialism, the religious right and women’s rights. As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Vienna Conference, her spirit will be with us. We will miss Sunila profoundly, but the impact of her work and vision accompanies us forever.

Charlotte Bunch, Radhika Balakrishnan and the CWGL team


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