Uplifting women diagnosed with cancer 

  • Kumarika launches ‘Sonduru Diriyawanthi’ campaign 

In order to tackle the devastating side-effect of cancer – loss of hair – Kumarika, a haircare brand in Sri Lanka has stepped forward with a purpose-driven campaign to address the increasing need for natural hair wigs. 

The campaign, “Sonduru Diriyawanthi” will help support cancer patients, marking the onset of yet another timely initiative by the Kumarika brand who wish to propagate the ideology that every woman is beautiful regardless of appearance. 

The initiative was launched in collaboration with their partner organisations: Indira Cancer Trust, Lions Clubs of Aluthgama, Bentota and Mount Lavinia, and with the co-ordination support of the Sri Lanka College of Oncologists. 

The virtual launch held on 5 October featured Ministry of Health Secretary Dr. Sanjeewa Munasinghe, Director General of Health Services Dr. Asela Gunawardena, Sri Lanka College of Oncologists Secretary Dr. Sachini Malaviarachchi, Indira Cancer Trust Chairperson Dr. Lanka Jayasuriya Dissanayake, Past District Governor Lion Chandani Withana, and Hemas Holdings Group CEO and Executive Director Kasturi Chellaraja Wilson.

From left: Hemas Consumer Brands Marketing Manager Azmara Mannan Perera, Ministry of Health Secretary Dr. Sanjeewa Munasinghe, Director General of Health Services Dr. Asela Gunawardena, and recipient of the first Kumarika Care Pack Sudeshika Sandamali 

Rise in cancer cases 

According to current reports, around 30,000 people are diagnosed with cancer each year and the female population accounts for approximately 15,500 new cases. With this in mind, the project will donate 6,000 hair wigs per year, so that it will amount to nearly half of the number of diagnosed female patients. 

Commenting on the concerning number of cases detected in recent years, Dr. Dissanayake said that it is unfortunate to see the rise in cancer cases which has become a serious issue at present. “The mental trauma of this illness is something that has sneaked through the attention of society. For many women, it is a highly challenging period, as they have to grapple with hair loss concerns, which hinders their normal life,” she stated. 

She further added that on behalf of the Indira Cancer Trust, she is grateful that they can make this campaign come to life through the partners who have come together. 

In the words of Hemas Holdings Group CEO and Executive Director Kasturi Chellaraja Wilson: “Fighting cancer takes courage and determination. These beautiful and bold women deserve to feel good about themselves as they take on this challenging journey.” 

The first phase 

Whilst celebrating the beauty of women in all forms, the campaign is looking to donate on request, a care pack for patients who undergo chemotherapy treatment. At the event, it was announced that as the first phase of the campaign, care packs will be donated to the cancer patients of: National Cancer Institute, Maharagama; National Hospital, Kandy; Provincial General Hospital, Badulla; Teaching Hospital, Karapitiya; Teaching Hospital, Kurunegala; Teaching Hospital, Anuradhapura; Kotelawala Defence University; Base Hospital Tellippalai, Jaffna; Provincial General Hospital, Ratnapura; and Teaching Hospital, Batticaloa. 

The care package will include a natural hair wig with an adjustable strap and shoulder length hair, a set of Kumarika products including Kumarika shampoo and conditioner, Kumarika hair serum, Kumarika hair oil, and a booklet containing important information for cancer patients. 

This package is to be distributed to patients at the start of their chemotherapy, so that the wig can be prepared and kept to be used as soon as they lose hair, which, Dr. Dissanayake explained, occurs most commonly within the first two to four weeks of starting chemotherapy. 

Minister of Health Keheliya Rambukwella thanked Hemas Consumer Brands and the partner organisations for their timely contribution towards the betterment of cancer patients in Sri Lanka. On this topic, Rambukwella observed that most patients could not afford a natural hair wig by themselves, as it’s generally quite expensive, and with the burden of expensive treatment weighing down on them, purchasing a wig for aesthetic purposes is not an option. He thanked the partner organisations for giving these patients the opportunity to feel like themselves again, adding that in his opinion, if there was anything that could be done to make them happy, it should be embraced with both hands. 

Empowering women 

Around 80% of cancer patients are required to undergo chemotherapy treatment that has a possible side effect of hair loss. A majority of women diagnosed with cancer face traumatic situations due to hair loss, which have led them to abandon their comfort zones. Even though most women are willing to undergo treatment, hair loss becomes a major concern for them that holds them back, causing them to shy away from social interaction, relationships, places of worship, and more. 

Commenting on why the Hemas Group chose to support this cause, Chellaraja Wilson stated that at Hemas, enriching the lives of communities is in the heart of everything they do, and therefore, feel privileged to be able to reach out to these women and help them tackle a small part of their battle. 

While the donation helps to address the hair wig needs of patients, the campaign also aims to raise awareness by including counselling sessions for patients with an aim to encourage, motivate, and inspire hope in them, so that they can lead a happy life. 

It was also noted that the emotional trauma these women have to face caused by the lack of hair, is further fueled by negative reactions of society and family members which therefore causes severe distress. Having understood the need to support these women to march forward, Lion Chandani Withana from the Lions Club of Aluthgama, Bentota said: “In keeping with our slogan ‘Where there is a need, there is a Lion’, we are indeed happy to partner with this national campaign and respond to a major need of women who are diagnosed with cancer. We believe that this timely donation will strengthen their hand, to believe in themselves and lead a normal and happy life with their families, with their due place in society.” 

This initiative will undoubtedly support and encourage the Sri Lankan women and keep them feeling beautiful while building a generation of courageous and strong women. Kumarika invites all Sri Lankans to be a part of the discourse to further strengthen women who deserve to face life’s challenges stronger.