- Country / Conflict-Affected Area: Sri Lanka
- Position: Founder and Chair
- Organization: Association of War Affected Women and Parents of Servicemen Missing in Action
- Expertise: Conflict Prevention, Conflict Resolution, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and Refugees
Visaka Dharmadasa is the founder and chair of the Association of War Affected Women and Parents of Servicemen Missing in Action. After her second son, a Sri Lankan military officer, went missing in action, she dedicated herself to teaching soldiers and community leaders about international standards related to the conduct of war. Specifically, she raises awareness about the importance of soldier’s identification tags and treatment of prisoners, so that no mother has to endure an experience like her own.
Ms. Dharmadasa has designed and facilitated Track II dialogue processes in Sri Lanka. When talks were foundering and leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam refused to speak with members of the Sri Lankan government and Norwegian negotiators, they asked Ms. Dharmadasa to carry messages to the government. For this work, she was awarded InterAction’s prestigious humanitarian award in 2006. In coordination with the “1000 Peace Women Across the Globe” movement, she was nominated for a collective Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.
As a member of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, Ms. Dharmadasa monitored ceasefire violations in her country; she was also part of a team investigating violence in the north and east of Sri Lanka. As an advocate for the inclusion of women at all levels of peacebuilding and decision making, she trains women on power-sharing and how to run for political office.
Ms. Dharmadasa is Director of the board of the National Peace Council and People’s Action for Free & Fair Elections of Sri Lanka. She also belongs to the following organizations: Inclusive Security’s Women Waging Peace Network, the global advisory council of Women Thrive Worldwide, the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, the Civil Society Advisory Group of UN Women for the region, and the consultation taskforce on reconciliation mechanisms appointed by the government of Sri Lanka.
She holds a degree in negotiations and mediation skills from the US Institute for Peace and a degree in women and security from Harvard University.
Last Updated: January 2017