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Talk with Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala, United Nations advocate for Women’s Rights

By Charlotte, Year 13

On Monday 13 February, the students in the International Stream were fortunate enough to be given a talk by Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala, the first Sri Lankan person to climb Mount Everest. As a women’s rights advocate and mountaineer, she was able to give students an insight into both the physical and mental challenges that she was presented with during her preparation for the climb and her journey in Nepal before summiting on the 21 May 2016.

After the assembly, the Sixth form students were given the chance to ask her some questions about the climb and her work as an advocate for woman’s rights. The students from the Model United Nations and the Gender Equality groups had prepared questions in advance concerning her work. Jayanthi gave them insight into some of the gender based discrimination that she has experienced in her home country and how she hopes her summiting will prove that women are just as capable as men. As international students living in Hong Kong, it becomes easy for us to forget how fortunate our upbringing has been and that we are part of a minority who are given the same/very similar opportunities as males.

As part of the discussion, Jayanthi explained the role that schools and individuals should play in promoting gender equality, and that such a social stigma is something that is developed from a very young age. She showed us a particularly powerful video titled #StartWithTheBoys which conveyed the message that crying should not be equated to weakness and negative ideas of femininity and should instead be viewed only as a release of emotion, preferable to releasing it through violent measures such as domestic abuse.

We would like to thank Ms. Maya for organising such an inspiring and interesting talk and to Jay for showing us that no dreams are out of reach irrespective of gender!