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Fight like a Girl



Inspired by fellow ‘Endometriosis Warriors’ across the world and fuelled by her own struggle with the little-talked of condition, The Endometriosis Awareness and Support Foundation, the first of its kind here at home, is the brainchild of corporate lawyer, Rashani Meegama. The Endometriosis Soldier that she is, Rashani shares with the Sunday Island her chilling experience with the incapacitating condition which propelled her to reach out to fellow Sri Lankan women and young girls suffering silently …

by Randima Attygalle

“When I was 14, I almost passed out in period pain at a mid-term exam. I had to abandon the paper half way to be taken to the school sick room by my classmates where I waited for my mother to come and pick me. With the passage of time, the pain got worse and it was presumed to be just normal period pain. The obstetrician who first investigated dismissed me as a ‘fussy young girl’ who eats too much of oily food and then complains!” recollects Rashani Meegama who is a severe Endometriosis combatant.

Rashani, 41 years now, was first diagnosed with Endometriosis in her early 30s. She would go through harrowing episodes of prolonged pain, confined to bed with pain killers and heat packs. In a nerve-wracking recollection, she relives collapsing and rolling in pain in her lawn. “The washroom visits which I had to muster up so much courage to take, were agonizing due to pain and exhaustion. I would be up at wee hours in the morning with a heat pack when my mother and husband would be exhausted and flat out after attending to me and I would feel helpless, scared and desperate,” she recounted.

A painful disorder where endometrial tissue (the lining of the womb/uterus) grows outside the uterus, Endometriosis most commonly involves ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining the pelvis. “An extreme case of Endometriosis”, as she calls herself, Rashani is now at ‘Stage four’ of the condition. Still very much an unspoken topic here at home, the disease itself is a mystery she says. Although several theories have been suggested including genetics, retrograde menstruation (when some of the womb lining flows up through the fallopian tubes and embeds itself on the organs of the pelvis, rather than leaving the body as a period) and problems with immune system, none of them fully explain the reason for this ‘confusing’ and debilitating condition.

From crippling pain of body to intangible fatigue and mind fog, the condition can severely affect personal and professional life, job goals, reproductive health and self-esteem. Its symptoms varying in great degree from woman to woman, makes the diagnosis difficult. According to the Endometriosis Foundation of America, the disease affects one in 10 reproductive-aged women (aged 12-52) – an estimated 200 million individuals worldwide, and many often experience a decade-long delay in diagnosis. It is also one of the leading causes of infertility.

The physical, mental and life-altering toll Endometriosis has had on Rashani’s life drove her to champion The Endometriosis Awareness and Support Foundation (EASF) under the banner ‘Fight like a girl’. A corporate lawyer by profession, this life crippling condition has robbed so much from Rashani’s life. The excruciating pain accompanied by migraines, irritable bowels, joint and back pain, nausea, brain fog, excessive mood swings, infertility related issues, weight gain, and even bouts of depression- all by products of her condition, left her professional life at the receiving end, forcing her to give up her court practice.

“Even a small court visit would keep me tied to bed with severe migraine caused by heat, stress, and general fatigue. There were times when I had to end up in Emergency Care with injections to mitigate the pain coupled with suppositories. With all this, it would still take about five days for me to completely recover.”

No longer be able to hold to a ‘regular job’, Rashani finally created her vocation around her disease and related issues by setting up two small-scale law firms. “This way, I could have my own time and take my own leave and mercifu

 missed out on many personal milestones as well as my social life,” says the vivacious lady whose smile and warm persona are infectious. “I was so sick when I was sitting for my Masters in Law and I missed out my graduation as I had to go through emergency surgery.”

lly it has worked out well,” smiles the Endometriosis trooper that she is today. “In my struggle with the condition, I have

The girl who never missed a party and was often the last to leave one muses: “friends found it difficult to understand why I would go into a shell and stay away from gatherings, parties etc. Besides my pain struggles, I also found it difficult to make people understand my difficulty in coping with daily life. Even simple chores like doing groceries is impacted due to fatigue the condition entails. The biggest issue was that it was a debilitating disease which took a hit in all areas of my life but it was an unknown and unspoken disease which resulted in more frustration confusion and misunderstanding medically and personally.”

Inspired by Padma Lakshmi – model, author, actress and television host rolling into one and the Co-Founder of The Endometriosis Foundation of America, Rashani, set up The Endometriosis Awareness and Support Foundation (EASF), the first of its kind here at home to galvanize passionate individuals to rally around it and thereby lend a voice for the cause. “One need not necessarily be an Endometriosis fighter, anyone committed to this cause either at personal or professional capacity could come join hands with EASF.” Inspired by Endometriosis warriors like Padma Lakshmi whose experience drove her to take a personal shift in her battle with the condition, Rashani has devised her own coping mechanism besides clinical interventions. Eating healthy, indulging in physical activities she enjoys, meditation and music had made wonders in her life.

“By raising awareness in terms of the disease, its symptoms and treatment options, EASF aspires to let the rest of society know how much women with Endometriosis go through and thereby create better communication and support at the school, family and public level, to let women in this predicament know that it’s normal to feel this way and that they are not abnormal or alone in this battle and to initiate a strong support network and improved coping mechanisms.”

Although the world is yet to find a cure for Endometriosis, it could be successfully managed, notes Rashani, if diagnosed accurately with the right team of medical practitioners on board- be it western, Ayurveda or alternate medicine. Yet it is never on a platter, says the ‘Endo-Fighter’ whose platform seeks to be a harbinger of hope and guidance in disease recognition

, treatment options and lifestyle enhancement. Empowering women with Endometriosis and their families to make informed decisions on medical and child bearing options, to help them improve their quality of life are also on EASF’s mandate.

Passionate to ensure that both our young girls and older women are aware of Endometriosis and that period pain may not always be a trivial ‘girl issue’, Rashani urges to be mindful of heavy periods, unusual weight gain in young years- early markers which ought to be flagged and investigated as she says. EASF, although still in its infancy, is confidently positioned to make a positive change in the lives of Sri Lankan women silently suffering with Endometriosis and its ripple effects. EASF also hopes to facilitate more research studies on the subject locally.

Enabling better understanding of the condition at family and corporate level is also envisaged by the Foundation. While encouraging women battling with it to ‘listen to their bodies’ and afford ‘plenty of ME time’, EASF’s founder avers: “don’t build walls around you, talk to someone about your condition outside your doctors. Never let the condition control your life, goals and dreams. Most importantly, don’t let it steal away the woman in you….”

For those who would like to rally around The Endometriosis Awareness and Support Foundation, please write to


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LUXASIA aims to lead luxury beauty’s growth in Sri Lanka



Sri Lanka is a land renown for stunning natural beauty. Yet, LUXASIA still managed to usher in a different kind of beautiful to the market through its expertise in luxury beauty retail and omni-distribution.

In November 2019, LUXASIA unveiled its inaugural classy beauty counters at Odel, One Galle Face. Since then, it has brought enchanting fragrances from luxury brands such as Burberry, Calvin Klein, Gucci, and Marc Jacobs, as well as trendy skincare from KORA Organics to beauty-lovers in an exquisite and captivating retail format.

Now, having successfully overcome the challenges in 2020 imposed by COVID-19 and related lockdowns, LUXASIA is ready and excited to thrill Sri Lankan consumers again. This time, it is with the launch of both skincare and make-up collections from the prestigious Japanese beauty brand, Shiseido. Arriving with a glamorously magnificent pop-up at One Galle Face from 8 to 14 February 2020, LUXASIA promises to bring memorable consumer experiences and a feast for the eyes that showcases the best in Japanese beauty.  

Leading up to this pop-up, LUXASIA partnered the Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and top influencers of Sri Lanka to excite the beauty community with a sneak peek of what Shiseido have to offer. This campaign garnered more than 100,000 social interactions, with over 1.2 million social media impressions, piquing consumers’ fascination in Shiseido’s award-winning and best-selling serum, The Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate.

Looking ahead into 2021, LUXASIA aims to continue delighting consumers with even more fresh retail innovations to spice up the luxury beauty scene in Sri Lanka. Soon, fragrance enthusiasts can expect a unique pop-up of all the scents that Luxasia carry, featuring new launches from Davidoff and Calvin Klein, as well as other interesting novelties. Beauty-lovers can also expect more limited edition products and gifts-with-purchases, interesting workshops, as well as seasonal offerings in the coming months. Concurrently, LUXASIA also aspires to continue grooming the Sri Lankan beauty community through more entertaining collaborations with KOLs throughout 2021.

LUXASIA sees immense potential in Sri Lanka’s fast-growing beauty market and has been its voice in the international beauty industry. For some time now, LUXASIA has been relentlessly reaching out to numerous luxury beauty brands across to world to interest them in Sri Lanka. While it is encouraging to see the first-fruits, LUXASIA is aiming much higher. Forging ahead, LUXASIA strives to champion and lead the growth of luxury beauty in Sri Lanka, through even more partnerships with great brands, and by continuously delighting consumers.

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Newly published guide opens many windows on whale watching



by Ifham Nizam

Shipping lanes to the south of Dondra pose the threat of ships colliding with whales as the area has very rich marine life which also attracts whale watching boats, says prolific wildlife writer and photographer Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, author of the recently published ‘A Naturalist’s Guide to the Mammals of Sri Lanka’.

He says international shipping industry organizations have written to the government to push back the existing shipping lanes and if no action is initiated, there is the danger of whale watching boats colliding with vessels.

Dr. Susannah Calderon and her colleagues at the University of Ruhuna have recommended the shipping lanes be moved 15 nautical miles south. The cost impact to all concerned will be negligible, but it significantly improves safety at sea, especially at night when the sea is dotted with the lamps from hundreds of small fishing crafts in the path of giant container carriers.

“It is primarily a safety issue though an important secondary impact will be that it reduces fatal collisions with whales, while generating favourable publicity for the government of Sri Lanka. It boils down to moving the shipping lanes further south and saving lives, Wijeyeratne stressed in an interview with The Sunday Island.

Asked what’s special about his latest publication, he said: “This is the first photographic field guide which covers nearly all of the mammals found in Sri Lanka. It covers 96 per cent of the land and marine mammals. The book, which is portable and affordable, also contains a large number of images from 40 photographers which are practically useful in the field to identify a mammal to species level. It also covers a number of small, discrete, nocturnal mammals whose existence that even many local wildlife enthusiasts will not be aware of.”

On the book’s coverage of the marine mammals, Wijeyeratne said there are two noteworthy aspects. Firstly, it covers all the species recorded in Sri Lankan waters expect for one, the Omura’s Whale. This will be included in a second edition. Secondly, it uses images of the whales and dolphins (cetaceans) which will show the animals the way a whale watcher will see them on the surface.

Artwork that shows the whole animal is important, but in field conditions, they are often of limited value to identify cetaceans which only show a little of their upper body in sections at a time they surface.

Q: You were the first to publicize that Sri Lanka was the best location for Blue Whale sightings and offered the best chance to see a superpod of Sperm Whales. Can you explain briefly how you set about branding Sri Lanka as a top international destination for whale watching?


I started with field work to ascertain the facts and launched a media campaign initially with Jetwing Eco Holidays and Jetwing Hotels which was supported over many years by the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) and others in the media and tourism business. I have published 37 articles on whale watching in Sri Lanka. The first, in May 2008, was pivotal as it boldly stated that Sri Lanka was best for Blue Whales. This set everything in motion. My articles give due credit to many people who were a part of this amazing story. This includes Dr. Charles Anderson who first told me it would be feasible to see Blue Whales from the South.

A Belgian millionaire philanthropist who prefers to remain anonymous and helped create the infrastructure for whale watching by 13 tsunami affected fishing youth who set up Mirissa Water Sports and Sue Evans who was important for connecting all of us and Anoma Alagiyawadu (the Jetwing Lighthouse Naturalist) whom I tasked with collecting the initial data for the Encounter Rates I publicized in the media.

Remarkably, no Sri Lankan marine biologist played any role in publicizing whale watching in the early years. However, soon after, they benefited by being thrust into the media spotlight by film crew researchers who had read the publicity which began with my various widely disseminated articles. Having read them, and sometimes after conversations with me, the film crews and the press came to Sri Lanka and incorporated local marine biologists into their story.

At the time I broke the first story, I do not think any of the local marine biologists had even one image of a Blue Whale of a publishable standard or had any idea that Sri Lanka was the best place in the world to see Blue Whales. Hopefully, the increased profile of local marine biologists has made it easier for them to raise the funds needed for their important research.

Q: Did the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau help your efforts with publicity and branding?


Yes indeed. At the start of the publicity campaign, we produced a series of informative and attractive publications designed by Chandrika Maelge. These were printed and distributed at key consumer and travel trade fairs such as the Bird Fair, WTM and Destinations where a number of important press and tour operators were informed about Sri Lanka being a good place for whales. At some of the press drinks events in London hosted by Jetwing Eco Holidays, around 35-45 press people would attend. These events were held in collaboration with the London Office of the SLTPB.

In some years, As many as three of these press events were held allowing personal interaction with a wide pool of media people. Another important and later development is the role played by Nalin Perera who ran the SLTPB office in London for several years and attended many consumer and travel trade fairs. I had developed media briefs for him which he would print and distribute. In one conversation, he estimated that he had printed and distributed over 10,000 copies of this material.

There were others who also disseminated my stories to the international press; a notable example being Chitral Jayatilake who shared my publicity pdfs with various wildlife documentary makers he invited to Sri Lanka.


Q: Did everyone readily embrace your ideas?

It took a couple of years. I remember even into the second year of the publicity campaign there were doubts from the big companies in tourism.

I remember Srilal Miththapala who was then President of The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka speaking to me and joining a celebrity whale watching event I was leading with Shyamalee Tudawe. This was organized by Olivia Richli of the Amangalla in Galle.

Srilal wanted to report back to the association if there was any truth to the claims being made by me about how easy it was to see Blue Whales. On the coastline, the people running small guesthouses readily embraced the story as tourists who were reading my stories turned up with copies of my articles and asked for boats to take them whale watching. The international press also readily took it on as I provided credible data.

Q: What do you say to criticisms that whale watching needs better regulation?

I agree on the need for better regulation and higher standards. The tourism industry has played its part in publicizing whale watching. Other state agencies also need to step up their efforts to regulate the industry in a way that is good for the welfare of the animals and provide a good visitor experience.

Q: What do you expect ‘A Naturalist’s Guide to the Mammals of Sri Lanka’ to achieve?

I would like people to understand that there is still a lot to be discovered about Sri Lanka’s mammals and I hope this portable and affordable guide will find its way into the hands of local naturalists and inspire more research and more practical steps to conserve habitats and species.



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Modern Brides and Grooms collection by LOVI Ceylon and friends



Brides and Grooms of Sri Lanka – Reimagined

“Together we’re creating moments of happiness and cherished memories for the new couple and their families” said Founder and CEO of LOVI Ceylon, Asanka de Mel, as he introduced LOVI Ceylon’s Groom collection. Each groom’s look was paired with extraordinary creations from Sri Lanka’s top bridal designers, jewelers, florists, hair and make-up artiste and was captured by story-telling photographers.

The presentation graciously hosted by the Taj Samudra and Shangri-La hotels saw 30 leading designers working hand in hand to infuse fresh ideas, celebrate cultural diversity and show-off Sri Lankan couture—the island’s hand craft heritage.

The stunning bridal costumes were painstakingly made by renowned designers Messrs. Dhananjaya Bandara, Rishard Raheem, and Michael Wijesuriya as well as Mses. Indi Yapa Abeywardena of Brides by INDI, Sonali Dharmawardena, Darshi Keerthisena of Buddhi Batiks, Ramona Oshini, Sandani Perera of IKIGAI Bridal, and Jaish Parathalingam of Aashkii. The newcomer, Ms. Anusha David also presented her couture creations under the label Gabriel.

“We want our Groom and all of the men in the wedding including the groomsmen, dads, young boys and friends, to be themselves–to feel rooted in culture, well dressed and at ease on the wedding day,” says Asanka. Celebrating the religious and cultural traditions including Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Kandyan, Malay, Muslim, Sinhala, Tamil and western traditions of the island LOVI Ceylon’s Grooms’ range presented modern sarongs paired with formal shirts, jackets, kurtas and more. They were paired with sarees, dresses, lehengas, pant suits and an array of breathtaking outfits. There were many looks offered for the Sri Lankan diaspora, as well as couples seeking inspiration for destination weddings.

As the designs progressed from sketch to stitching, our jewelry partners Careems, Lalitha, Mallika Hemachandra, Tiesh and Vogue jewelers added their brilliant sparkles with handcrafted fine jewelry made of precious metals encrusted with diamonds, sapphires and rubies. And what wedding would be complete without flowers? Bringing the latest floral creations were florists Designer Flowers, Flowers by Joan and Karen Forbes, Lassana Flora, and Supreme Flora who made the spectacular bridal outfits blossom with their creations.

Breathing life into these wonderful creations with superb hair and make-up was anchor of the shoot, Ms. Nadiya Fernando and her collaborator Omesh, while Ramani Fernando Salons, Shane Perera, Viran Peter, Brides by Leena and Talia designs, also worked magic on the models.

The father son duo Dinuka and Dineth Fonseka of Studio3000 took on the herculean task of capturing all the creations as the anchor photography partner. The works of Ashene Bernard, Amarante Studio, Geeshan Bandara, and Portrait Culture were also presented in imaginative and artistic captures.

De Mel expressed his thanks to the wonderful models who brought the visions and fancies of the designers to life, as well as poet and author Ashok Ferrey for being the MC of the shoot and providing an eloquent commentary, delivered with his inimitable panache!

“We have world class craftsmanship here, it’s fun to work with so many experts, who just happen to be friends, to present a beautiful collection that could nudge the course of Sri Lankan clothing identity” said Asanka when asked about the work that went into this.

As he rightly reminded the gentlemen to choose wisely, “on that special wedding day, when all eyes are on her–her eyes are on you!”



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