Social activist and educationist
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