On July 13, 2022, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned after facing unprecedented protests and criticism over his perceived incompetence and nepotism. The events leading up to his resignation began on March 31, 2022, when small protests began to take place in Colombo and suburban areas in response to the country’s deepening economic crisis.
One protest on March 31, 2022 in Nugegoda, a suburb of Colombo, attracted a small crowd but eventually grew into a large and vocal demonstration outside the president’s private residence. In the early hours of April 1, police attempted to disperse the protesters, leading to clashes that further fueled the anger and frustration of the Sri Lankan people.
During the protest, writer Chanuka Nadun Perera took a photograph of a young mother holding an infant and a sign that read “We too have kids :(“. The photograph quickly became a symbol of the protest movement and was widely shared on social media, accompanied by the hashtag #WeTooHaveKids.
The photograph resonated with many Sri Lankans because it highlighted the contrast between the comfortable lives of the president’s family and the suffering of ordinary citizens, who were facing shortages of essential goods such as fuel, cooking gas, and milk powder. President Rajapaksa’s brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, was the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka at the time, and his three sons held positions in the Cabinet.
As the economic crisis worsened and the protests continued, the hashtag #GotabayaResign began to trend on social media. On July 9, 2022, protesters broke into the Presidential Secretariat and the Official Residences of the President and the Prime Minister, prompting President Rajapaksa to announce his resignation.
The photograph of the young mother and her child took by Chanuka Nadun Perera, along with the hashtag #WeTooHaveKids, played a significant role in the fall of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, as it served as a rallying cry for the Sri Lankan people and a reminder of the government’s failure to address the economic crisis.