So­cial ac­tivist and ed­u­ca­tion­ist

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - Internatio­nal Women's Day -

With her rare blend of grace, wis­dom and strength, Jez­ima Ismail com­mands deep re­spect across many seg­ments of Sri Lankan so­ci­ety. Since grad­u­at­ing from the Univer­sity of Cey­lon in 1955, she has worked in fields as di­verse as ed­u­ca­tion, hu­man rights, and broad­cast­ing, earn­ing se­nior po­si­tions and dis­tin­guished ac­co­lades along the way. In the process, she has ad­dressed some of the coun­try’s most crit­i­cal is­sues, in­clud­ing those re­lated to the de­vel­op­ment of youth, women’s rights, peace and democ­racy, and in­ter-faith re­la­tions.

Jez­ima’s multi-faceted ca­reer and achieve­ments are rooted in the man­ner of her up­bring­ing. Born in Colombo in 1935, Jez­ima re­calls her par­ents as lov­ing, in­tel­li­gent, and pro­gres­sive in­di­vid­u­als.

Jez­ima re­ceived her pri­mary and sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion at the pres­ti­gious St. Brid­get’s Con­vent in Colombo, an en­vi­ron­ment which pro­vided some valu­able life lessons. She grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Per­adeniya with a Bach­e­lor of Arts in 1955. Jez­ima’s long and il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer as an ed­u­ca­tor com­menced as a teacher at Devi Ba­lika, which had been founded just a few years ear­lier, in 1953.

In 1980, she be­came the first woman ap­pointed to the Board of Di­rec­tors of the Sri Lanka Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion (SLBC) and served as Act­ing Chair­per­son of SLBC. Jez­ima also con­trib­uted to the es­tab­lish­ment and op­er­a­tion of sev­eral NGOS which con­tinue to be im­por­tant so­cial forces in Sri Lanka to­day, es­pe­cially for the ad­vance­ment of women in the coun­try. An im­por­tant ex­am­ple of her pi­o­neer­ing so­cial ad­vo­cacy is the crit­i­cal role she played in found­ing the Mus­lim Women’s Re­search and Ac­tion Forum (MWRAF) in 1976, which is well-known for its work in em­pow­er­ing Mus­lim women, es­pe­cially in Sri Lanka but also abroad.

The year there­after, she founded the Academy of Adult Ed­u­ca­tion for Women (AAEW), an or­ga­ni­za­tion which she still chairs. From 1982 to 1983, Jez­ima presided over the Sri Lanka Fed­er­a­tion of Univer­sity Women (SLFUW). In ad­di­tion, she worked to es­tab­lish the Sri Lanka Mus­lim Women’s Con­fer­ence (SLMWC), an um­brella or­ga­ni­za­tion for sev­eral Mus­lim women’s groups. She con­tin­ues to serve as Pres­i­dent of the SLMWC to this day.

Af­ter pre­ma­turely re­tir­ing as Prin­ci­pal of MLC in 1988, Jez­ima ex­panded, rather than re­duced, her work in var­i­ous fields. Dur­ing the 1990s, she trav­elled over­seas on sev­eral oc­ca­sions as a mem­ber of in­ter­na­tional elec­tion mon­i­tor­ing com­mit­tees.

She was a mem­ber of the South Asian As­so­ci­a­tion for Re­gional Co­op­er­a­tion (SAARC) Mon­i­tor­ing Com­mit­tees on the Na­tional Elec­tions in Pak­istan and Bangladesh in 1993 and 1996, re­spec­tively and of the Com­mon­wealth Ob­server Mis­sion to over­see the Pres­i­den­tial Elec­tion in Nige­ria in 1999.

In the course of this decade, Jez­ima also founded and was Pres­i­dent of two no­table Or­ga­ni­za­tions which pro­mote ed­u­ca­tional ac­cess and eq­uity; the Sri Lanka As­so­ci­a­tion for the Ad­vance­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion (SLAAED), and the SAARC Fed­er­a­tion of Univer­sity Women.her work in hu­man rights also en­com­passes serv­ing on the Board of Man­age­ment of the Cen­tre for the Study of Hu­man Rights (CSHR), an in­sti­tu­tion at­tached to the Fac­ulty of Law at the Univer­sity of Colombo which fur­thers the aware­ness and im­ple­men­ta­tion of hu­man rights in Sri Lanka. In­deed, Jez­ima is widely re­spected and con­sulted by hu­man rights or­gan­i­sa­tions both within and out­side Sri Lanka for her wis­dom and ex­per­tise on a range of is­sues, es­pe­cially those per­tain­ing to ed­u­ca­tion, women, and the Mus­lim com­mu­nity.

In re­cent years, Jez­ima has ex­tended her in­flu­ence in ed­u­ca­tion and the non-gov­ern­men­tal sec­tor. Most sig­nif­i­cantly, she was in­au­gu­rated in 2003 as the Chan­cel­lor of South East­ern Univer­sity of Sri Lanka, thereby be­com­ing the first Mus­lim woman to hold such a po­si­tion Jez­ima Ismail now ap­pointed to the Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion has been a most in­spi­ra­tional fig­ure among Women of the Is­lamic Com­mu­nity.

The in­creas­ing num­ber of Women of this once se­cluded Com­mu­nity are en­ter­ing main so­cial and eco­nomic lead­er­ship in­spired by Jez­ima Ismail.

Jez­ima Ismail now ap­pointed to the Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion has been a most in­spi­ra­tional fig­ure among Women of the Is­lamic Com­mu­nity.

Source - In­ter­net

Jez­ima Ismail

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