We’d like you to meet Nelum Gamage! Nelum is the deputy chief of party for the USAID Coherent, Open, Responsive, and Effective (CORE) Justice Program in Sri Lanka. The country’s first female bribery commissioner, she shares her 30-year commitment to upholding the principles of democracy and good governance. Nelum is one reason #DevelopmentWorksHere.
1. Can you tell us about your journey in the public service and development sectors?
I began my legal career as an officer in the Bribery Commissioner’s Department (BCD), where I eventually became the first female bribery commissioner of Sri Lanka. In my 22 years with BCD and its successor the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption (CIABOC), I investigated and prosecuted high-profile persons for corruption. As the first female bribery commissioner, I was always conscious of equal gender representation in my workplace. As in most male-dominated industries around the globe, it was more difficult for women to rise to leadership roles than it was for men. However, the period between 1975 and 2015 was an era of positive change for women’s rights in Sri Lanka. I mentored young female attorneys who served in the BCD to confidently present their cases in courts. One such attorney became the director general CIABOC, and two others are now deputy director generals. As a woman who has held leadership positions in several capacities in the public service, I realize that women leaders themselves must encourage other women to have the confidence and willingness to take up new challenges!
I worked for 10 years as a consultant with the Legal Aid Commission and now work with Chemonics as the deputy chief of party for the USAID Coherent, Open, Responsive and Effective (CORE) Justice Program. CORE helps restore citizens’ trust in the judicial system, while supporting the government to meet the needs of its citizens in a move towards a more open, democratic society. As deputy chief of party, I guide our technical specialists, ensure effective implementation, analyze gaps and impediments, and help the team overcome challenges. Our team is currently working on three surveys: court monitoring, court users, and cost analysis of a criminal trial. The results of these surveys will eventually be shared with authorities to determine bottlenecks in the judicial process and remedial measures to be taken.