Mantra Life Center
“Being a woman in a patriarchal environment is very difficult. Everyone judges what you do, what you say, what you think. My marriage was arranged when I was 23 years old, and I ended up separating because of the violence. The Muslims here hate me, because I break every rule; I do everything a Muslim woman should not -according to them-, do; but the truth is, my experiences have made me who I am.”
“I met my husband working as a journalist in a magazine that celebrated strong characters and firm ideas. Deeply naïve and without any point of comparison, I agreed to marry him; he was older than me and he made me feel special. From the beginning I thought it was normal that he always suppressed my ideas and opinions and that he verbally and physically assaulted me, until one day I woke up dazed on the kitchen floor covered in blood, 6 months pregnant, sore from one of his beatings.”
Sharmila Seyyid is the founder and director of the Center for Well-Being, Mantra Life Centre, in the capital of Sri Lanka. There, she offers a space for all, especially supporting women through workshops, yoga classes, conversations on topics of interest and the cafeteria @mantrafood, which only prepares healthy meals with organic produce, from local farmers.
“Shortly after separating, I started advocating for women through social media. Then they began writing me and asking for help indirectly, so I offered to listen to them. Many times, we have the same problems; Why going through them alone?”
“Since then, I have spoken with hundreds of women across the island, all facing different issues. Now I am actively working with about 75 of them, plus the community around us. Sometimes, I go back home exhausted, but I do it for them and for my 8 years-old son, who despite of not receiving all my attention he understands what I do. He is growing to become a strong, kind and independent child, as every person should be.”