As part of our IWD celebrations, we shared the inspiring stories of our members. Our very own Anoma Wattaladeniya's story is shared below.
"I branched out my journey up the career ladder, whilst being a parent, creating national and international award-winning documentaries, managing Education, Documentary and Children’s Programme Division, became a newscaster, compere, a trainer, and an invited lecturer."
"From the very start, I was welcomed as a much-awaited addition to a family with two boys. I was loved, protected, valued, and most importantly heard. My strong-willed mother was a huge influence from day one; unlike the norm then she would make sure responsibilities and duties were shared equally amongst the three of us. She never made me feel “less” than my brothers, giving me the independence and courage to explore life. My father empowered me in his own gentle way, valuing my presence within the family bestowing me with a lot of trust and love.
I was born and raised in Kandy and lived in a highly conservative society where one would think women were discriminated against. Looking back, it was the the contrary, women and their rights were much respected then. I don’t know if this was due to the era being a time when the country was led by the first female prime minister in the world, a Sri Lankan woman who was seen as a force to reckon with. Whatever it was, even in my conservative society we were free to dress as we pleased and society would not hold our dress code or social life as a weapon to pass judgment, discriminate or bully.
Home, school, and society let my individuality flourish instead of curbing my growth. A prime example for this was my entree into films. While schooling, I was spotted by the renowned film director Dr Lester James Pieris to play the lead female character in his movie Akkarapaha. Contrary to popular belief that Catholic convents are strict institutions where girls are not encouraged to grow, it was the nuns in my school who were determined that I should take up this opportunity and supported me. With the film becoming a success amongst school children, I became known overnight. My fellow classmates taught me the strength in female diversity and the importance of empowering women thus cementing my place amongst my fraternity. My success was a result of a society that respected and appreciated my talents, a school that encouraged me and a family that strengthened me. I joined Rupavahini Corporation (a Sri Lankan national TV network) in 1982 as one of the first two women, which paved my path to become one of the first female television journalists in SL. It was a huge challenge simply because it was a new medium and there were no role models to aspire to in this field, so I became my own role model. I dreamt big and set myself targets that my fellow male colleagues had; I wanted to achieve the same accomplishments as them.
Looking back, it fills me with great pride knowing that I have achieved more than what I had ever dreamt of. My biggest achievement is to have grown from a person who had no role model to becoming a role model to many women in Sri Lanka who are now following in my footsteps.
I still feel that some women are taught to fit into pre- conceived boxes that society has created for them. I believe we must embrace our individuality, learn our strengths and weaknesses and explore our potential, to be able to dream big, think outside the box to smash the glass ceilings and ensure representation of women across all career fields."