Empowering communities through citizenship training for future leaders

Active Citizens is a global programme conducted by the British Council. The ethos behind this programme is ‘Globally connected, locally engaged’ and so far it has created 130,000 Active Citizens in 40 countries in Africa ,Asia, Europe etc. In South Asia , Active Citizens works through civil society organisations, government’s youth development organisations and universities to engage local volunteers and deepen trust and understanding within and between communities.  The vision of Active Citizens is ‘A world where people are empowered to engage peacefully and effectively with other cultures in the sustainable development in their community.’

The Active Citizens five day residential workshop held from 20 to 25of March 2017 in Kundasale was collaboration between British Council and their delivery partner, International Youth Alliance For Peace (IYAP) a local youth led volunteer not-for profit organisation. There were more than 30 participants representing Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities from all over the country. The programme develops Active Citizens who are potential change agents in their community. Through this workshop young people acquire a wide range of skills in leadership, communication, advocacy, citizenship, social responsibility, volunteering, fundraising, partnerships, and network building skills which contribute to community-led social development through Social Action Project delivery.

During the workshop, the participants were taken on a learning journey, referred to as the ‘the river’, which starts by building self-awareness and confidence and culminates in the planning and delivery of social action.

From building relationships with others; learning how to use dialogue as a tool for building empathy, trust and understanding through to practical and interactive sessions between Tamil, Sinhala and Muslim participants like Forum theatre. ‘Hold your assumptions lightly, not tightly’ was one of the most popular sessions which engaged the participants in activities regarding assumptions and debates whether assumptions are good or bad.

One of the main topics of the workshop was improving and understanding ‘communities’. What is a community? What are different communities around you? How communities can be empowered? Practical activities such as ‘the power walk’ addressed: What is power? How the centre of power can be influenced?

The workshop also focused on the biggest challenge in the journey of an Active Citizen; to change and empower their communities; developing an understanding of how the community ‘works’; learning how to identify stakeholders and interventions for addressing community issues and improving the motivation to act.

A cultural show was also organised by the participants with the help of the facilitators. They did combined events proving that language barrier is not a problem if you are willing to challenge something and proving that his workshop actually did make an impact on them. Participants used this event to showcase their diverse culture through song, dance and drama. It was undoubtedly one of the most successful sessions of the workshop.

Darshatha Gamage, a participant, representing the University of Kelaniya Rotaract club shared his views on this workshop “The Active Citizens workshop provided the opportunity for me to look at the things we know of in a different way. It also opened up the opportunity to network with young people who are engaged in impactful social action projects and to share experiences with each other.”

‘I feel empowered as a female and a social worker to deliver social action using my improved social responsibility and leadership skills’ stated Letchumanan Kokilavani volunteer representative from Sarvodaya Fusion, Hatton, Nuwara Eliya.

A total of 10 social action projects were planned and will be conducted by the participants all over the country. While all the projects have a cross-cutting theme of women and girls empowerment, reconciliation and peaceful co-existence is the main theme for their projects.

These Active Citizens are now ready to address issues in their communities, neighborhoods, empower the grass root level communities, bringing together people from different backgrounds including district councils, young people, community and religious leaders working towards creating a sustainable future for themselves and each other.

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International Youth Alliance for Peace Inauguration ceremony and Celebration of Volunteerism held on the 25th of January 2017. Colombo

International Youth Alliance for Peace commemorated its 3rd Anniversary and celebrated the spirit of volunteerism. The Executive Team was appointed and young Individuals with a desire to serve were awarded at the Inauguration Ceremony that was held on the 25th of January from 6:30pm onwards at the DHPL Building, Colombo 02. The Ceremony was be graced by the Honorable State Minister for Higher Eductaion & Highways Mr Mohanlal Grero as the chief guest and Member of Parliament Mrs.Hirunika Premachandra as a special guest. IYAP has been working towards building a progressive and peaceful society through unity and sustainable development. The impact of our work has reached 5000 young people around Sri Lanka throughout our 3-year journey and we continue to strive achieving further progress through our work. IYAP is a youth run, non-profit organization which aims to reach its goal through continuous hard work and networking. The youth leaders of IYAP decided to host this event with the view to celebrate our partners, well-wishers and 350+ volunteers. We open gates to through workshops, round-table discussions, and other projects, the IYAP facilitates intercultural dialogue and networking among young leaders. The building of relationships and sharing of experiences will encourage learning, mutual respect, and peaceful coexistence. This organization creates leadership opportunities such as getting access to international conferences, policy discussions, events, partnering with other developmentoriented agencies and non-profit organizations locally and internationally. The objective of these opportunities is to empower young leaders and help propel youth voices into the global dialogue, as growing Youth Led Organization to embracing mutual understanding and respect of the world and drive people toward the better a sustainable social development. Our Volunteer platform will introduce several opportunity for Young Leaders who are looking at nationally relevant environmental, social and economic themes. Together with other youth led Organization we look forward to find solution collective and Open the gates of opportunity.

International Youth Alliance for Peace & World Vision conducted Disability Sensitization Workshop in Badulla

“If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.” – Mahatma Gandhi

The world has changed its view on disability. In most countries, people with disabilities are no longer treated as a separate group or viewed with pity and apprehension. Unfortunately, a few countries still have a long way to go in sensitization and inclusion.

After nine long years of hard work, advocacy and lobbying by people with disabilities, disability rights activists, the civil society and the organizations concerned, Sri Lanka ratified the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 8th February 2016.

On February 13th 2016, a team of young people set off to Meegahakuila in the Badulla District, to conduct a “Disability Sensitization Workshop”. This campaign was part of the project titled the Ability Forum, an initiative of International Youth Alliance for Peace and World Vision Lanka.

The International Youth Alliance for Peace (IYAP) is a youth-based organization which initiates youth-led projects that promote peace, reconciliation and sustainable development. The IYAP strives to create a network of young leaders committed to pluralism and inclusion. Its projects are led and carried out entirely by young volunteers.  

World Vision Lanka (WVL) is the collaborative partner of IYAP in this initiative to raise awareness about disability among children and youth. World Vision is a relief, development and advocacy organization working with children and families to overcome poverty and injustice. World Vision has a special focus in disability inclusion in all its programmes.

This sensitization workshop was conducted for about 50 school children who belonged to the Child Society Club of Meegahakiula ADP. It was facilitated by a small team of WVL, IYAP as well as a visually impaired youth activist, Janith Rukmal, one of the members on the advisory panel of IYAP.  

The first session of the workshop was kicked off by two facilitators, Avanthi Kalansooriya and Janith Rukmal, who spoke about disability sensitization. The session was assisted by short video clips that showed children with disabilities being discriminated. The young participants were then asked to identify the problems they saw on the clips and discuss the possible solutions to these problems.

The next topic was about “Disability Etiquette”, which focused on the attitudes shown towards people with disabilities. This session included a role playing activity that familiarized the children with the responses and reactions that make a person with disability uncomfortable.

Other hot topics discussed were rights of children with disability, a basic theoretical knowledge of disability, and a basic tutorial on understanding sign language. The young participants were very enthusiastic to learn about sing language that IYAP member, Saranya Sivasubramanium, taught them how to converse using approximately 32 signs. The workshop ended with a session on a realistic understanding of the barriers faced by people with disabilities.

IYAP youth advisor and trainer, Janith Rukmal said, “I was so moved by some of their ideas and performances as dramatic renditions during the workshop which conveyed very strong and sensible messages about disability inclusion.”

The President of IYAP, Thirukumar Premakumar further added, “It was inspiring to hear children giving solutions to the problems faced by children with disabilities. Our young audience was very keen and eager in their participation during all the sessions. Based on the enthusiastic reception of this project, WVL and IYAP plan to replicate this workshop in other areas around the country as well.”

Samantha De Mel, Protection and Disability Specialist of WVL, commented, “Sensitizing children without disabilities, is essential for the inclusion of children with disabilities. Children are the best change agents to promote inclusion within their community. WVL is happy to work with the committed members of IYAP and we look forward to continuing our collaboration to replicate this initiative.”

For more information about the IYAP, please visit www.iyapsl.org.

International Youth Alliance for Peace, World Vision holds Disability Sensitization Workshop for Children

International Youth Alliance for Peace (IYAP) and World Vision recently conducted a disability sensitization workshop for 50 school children from Meegahakiula, Badulla District. The children were part of World Vision Child Society in the area. The workshop was a part of their Ability Forum Project initiated by IYAP.

The workshop helped the young participants to understand rights of children and people with disabilities, identify the issues and barriers faced by people with disabilities and possible solutions. They also learnt about general attitudes and reactions towards people with disability and how it was necessary to respond with sensitivity. The children also enjoyed learning the basics of sign language.

“This is the first time we have a programme that teaches us about disability,” said one participant, “I had no idea about what kind of an attitude we should have towards children with disabilities and I learnt today. I hope every child gets this awareness.”

“I was so moved by some of their ideas and performances as dramatic renditions during the workshop which conveyed very strong and sensible messages about disability inclusion,” says IYAP youth advisor and trainer, Janith Rukmal.

“It was inspiring to hear children giving solutions to the problems faced by children with disabilities,” says The President of IYAP, Thirukumar Premakumar, “IYAP is looking forward to replicating this workshop with World Vision in other areas around the country as well.”

IYAP is a youth-based organization which initiates youth-led projects that promote peace, reconciliation and sustainable development. The IYAP strives to create a network of young leaders committed to pluralism and inclusion. Its projects are led and carried out entirely by young volunteers.  

“Sensitizing children without disabilities, is essential for the inclusion of children with disabilities. Children are the best change agents to promote inclusion within their community and World Vision is happy to work with IYAP to replicate this initiative,” says Samantha De Mel, Protection and Disability Specialist of World Vision Lanka.

World Vision is a relief, development and advocacy organization working with children and families to overcome poverty and injustice. World Vision has a special focus in disability inclusion in all its programmes.

According to statistics collected by the National Census 2012, it is estimated that 8.7% of the Sri Lankan population – approximately 1.74 million people – above the age of 5 years live with some form of disability.

After nine long years of hard work, advocacy and lobbying by people with disabilities, disability rights activists, the civil society and the organizations concerned, Sri Lanka ratified the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 8th February 2016.

For more information about IYAP, please visit www.iyapsl.org.

One Youth, One Nation

‘One Youth, One Nation’ is a Campaign organized by the International Youth Alliance for Peace (IYAP). IYAP founded in November 2013 provides a platform for the young volunteers to come together and work towards Sustainable Social Development through Empowerment, Mobilization and Innovation. As a country which underwent various civil and social conflicts, IYAP believes that Sri Lanka needs an attitudinal change as well as knowledge and skills that can enhance the relationships within different communities.

They also recognized that even though Sri Lanka was recently liberated from war, the Sri Lankan youth is still negligent of the International Peace Day. Not only are they unaware of the exact date, they are also ignorant of its significance. This became the reason behind the initiation of the campaign ‘One Youth, One Nation’.

The campaign was centered around acknowledging and celebrating the peace day as well as creating a stage for open communication, sharing stories and networking amongst the youth. Established in 1981 Unanimously under the United Nations Resolution 36/37, the ‘International Day of Peace’ (Peace Day) is observed worldwide every 21st of September. According to the declaration of the UN general Assembly this day is devoted to “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.” (UN)

The Peace Day theme for the year 2016 is “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace.” The New 2030 UN agenda require countries to strive to reach these goals in 15 years. These goals when achieved will end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. (UN)

“The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are our shared vision of humanity and a social contract between the world’s leaders and the people,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “They are a to-do list for people and planet, and a blueprint for success.” (UN)

These 17 Goals were shared at the One Youth, One Nation Campaign in Sri Lanka. In order to share the goals and to educate the youth on how to strengthen the ideals of peace within and in the community IYAP conducted a nationwide massive cluster of workshops on the same day. These amounted to a total of 13 workshops across ten districts, covering eight provinces of Sri Lanka.

“The Sri Lankan Youth are the backbone for inspiration of the community”, says IYAP. Which is why IYAP took measures to create awareness among the young, of the importance of Peace and the relationship between youth and peace. This also included of how they can contribute to build peace in the community. To drive these facts home and as encouragement to share their own stories of peace, testimonies from a diverse group of speakers were shared in these wrkshops.

Beginning these valuable two hour sessions with an energizing game on peace, in addition to the above the objectives covered and the topics discussed included the following areas as well.  Promoting intellectual dialog and mutual understanding. Enhancing their imagination and thinking power to come up with innovative peace building processes. Promoting peaceful co-existence. Providing development opportunities to empower the younger generation to create positive change. Teaching the young ones how to develop the community by building peace, protecting human rights, empowering youth, etc.

Rolling out this massive campaign and bringing together the youth of the country to become One Youth, One Nation was no mere feat. Which is why IYAP reached out and built a collective of partners, who are all voluntary organisations working with youth. The organisations who partnered with IYAP in this enormous effort of bringing One Youth, One Nation to life are Sri Lanka Unites, Jaffna Social Action Centre (JASC), American Centre –Jaffna, Advance Technological Institute, Jaffna, Muslim Aid, Family Well-being Centre, Rotract Club of University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka and Rotract Club of Chunnakam, Sri Lanka.

At the end of productive two hours, not only did the participants manage to define peace according to their own beliefs, but also opened up a dialog on the depth of the concept of peace. This proved that the IYAP and the collective of organisations were headed in the right direction. This self-education process led the youth to identify the concept of peace to be ‘Positive Change’. The open discussion also included conversations on how can they help build peace and if they are ‘Agents of Positive Change’.

In their own words, given below are a few testimonials on the workshops from the participants, officials and partners.

“One Youth, One Nation Campaign was an excellent initiative, I participated in the workshop hosted in Jaffna, it opened up my thoughts as to how young people like me can contribute towards Peace in our country” – Abinaya Suntharalingam (Jaffna participant)

“I am from Matara, I participated in the Matara workshop in Sri Lanka Unites Center, I understood the concept of peace and the importance of peace building in a multicultural country” – Arunuradha Samaranayake (participant from Matara)

“After the 30-year-old war, whatever has happened, you are ready to move forward despite of politics, cultural background and old generation. To mobilize people, this kind of grass root initiative is important. It’s a great example that money is not an issue of you want to do something good for the country” – (A Participant from the Peradeniya University)

“Our, ‘One Youth One Nation’ campaign represents young people from diverse socio-economic contexts across the country. While making an effort to understand their values, ideas and beliefs. this campaign helped us unite the younger generation across various communities in order to advocate peace through various measures. We at IYAP, strongly believe that such an effort would undoubtedly empower the young and create an understanding of the society they live in.”  – Thirukumar Premakumar – Founder President of the International Youth Alliance for Peace.

“Reconciliation is an everyday process where every citizen of a nation should celebrate and live up to. We as a youth movement for hope and reconciliation, engaging with young student leaders across the island on the international peace day, make us proud to be liaising as ‘One Youth, One Nation’.” – National Coordinator – Srilanka  Unites

With such a positive outcome for the 21st September efforts, all IYAP has left is to move forward, because this is just the beginning of One Youth, One Nation. In order to bring about ‘Positive Change’, groom ‘Agents of Positive Change’ and become One Youth, One Nation, IYAP along with their collective of partners has a long way to go. They are reaching out to more organisations and expanding their volunteer pool who will support their efforts in rolling out the second phase of One Youth, One Nation.

Until then IYAP leaves us with the message:

Peace is to have inner peace as well as peace among the people and the Youth is the foundation of a Nation. Let’s come together to become One Youth, One Nation for the prosperity of Lanka Matha.

 

IYAP-Round Table Discussion Series

Every morning’s newsflash carries yet another sordid piece of information on poverty, war or under-development. When unease and strife have become commonplace, yet another kind of restlessness is making its way in. The minds of the youth are occupied yet scattered, immersed in things like hate speech and misuse of Social Media. Do we blame a lack of resources or are we to blame an adequate knowledge of just how these resources are to be made use of correctly? Either way, young blood carries so much real potential and when provided with the right education, they can be empowered and armed with weapons that have nothing to do with mass destruction, but with mass productivity rather: a tool to, in actuality, change the world. Just, in the right way.

 

The future of Sri Lanka predominately depends on the progress of

Youth , currently there are 7 million youth in Sri Lanka out of the total

population of approximately 21 million. Youth can progress and support

the development of the country. However to achieve this, it is vital to

create awareness and empower youth to take part in matters

of civil concern. With an ambition of empowering the young people of

Sri Lanka and equipping them with the right skills and knowledge to contribute towards civil matters, the program ‘Youth Matters’ was established by the IYAP. The program brings together youth involved in civic matters and experts in the areas of gender equality, disability rights, development, human rights, environment protection, Sustainable development and creates a platform to voice their concerns and identify solutions to such social problems and youth matters. The goal of IYAP is to not only discuss the solutions but to also come up with actual ways of implementing them.

 

Youth activists and advocates of various causes are brought together in a Round Table Discussion to open their minds and voice their opinions, not in an all-out animalistic way but in a clean, structured format of three rounds or so. The 1st Round Table Discussion Series was hosted over a period of three consecutive months namely September, October and November.

Following a pattern, the premises of The Chamber of Commerce, Colombo-2 was made use of for all three sessions. The series saw several youth advocates and participants coming in to facilitate the discussions. The aim of the sessions was to identify the ongoing problems that the youth and the society in general, is currently going through and the change that the youth want to see and can bring about.

 

The Series was deemed a success due to the large turnover of

participants which resulted in an influx of solutions and suggestions. A

report was drafted to conclude the sessions to be held in the Western

province.   Several other beneficial outcomes were seen to result from

the discussions, one being The Ability Forum-Rights of the Differently

abled people. It was also the ending of the series for the year 2015.

 

Owing to the immense success of the sessions that were held, the IYAP

plans to branch out to each of the different provinces of Sri Lanka, in

2016, to continue in our mission to empower and educate the youth. A

good way to start is via these discussions so that the problems faced by

each province, geographic or otherwise, can be individually addressed

for better results and solutions can be drawn from these talks. The plan

is to work together with a youth organization from each respective area and host a Single-Day event that will progress in three breakout sessions with a refreshment break in between each.

 

The IYAP is on the lookout for volunteers with fresh, new ideas whose main goal is to serve the community. If you think you can create a change, volunteer today.

Check out: www.iyapsl.org or their Facebook page- International Youth Alliance for Peace.

You can also email your details to iyapofficial@gmail.com to be an inherent part of this project.

 

Youth Volunteers for Peace and Beyond: IYAP

Every time the word “change” is mentioned, it’s inevitably followed by the word “youth” somewhere down the line. It’s not hard to see why because the power that the youth possess can not only stir up the change that the world badly needs but it can also make each individual start thinking about what their real purpose in life is.

International Youth Alliance for Peace (IYAP) Is your quintessential youth organization, except it’s much more than just that. A group of deeply motivated youngsters are the backbone of this organization, as they come together under the driving motive “by the youth for the youth”.

Having maintained a structure since its inception in 2013,IYAP prides itself on its communication strategy which has enabled them to reach the nationally recognized stable position in which they remain today. Volunteers are equipped with skills that not only empower them but also works to help them in climbing the leadership ladder within the organization which in turn, works as an internal motivation.

Here, the man behind it all, president of the organization, Thirukumar Premakumar speaks to us about his brainchild that has evolved to be the immense success it is today.

 

IYAP is a continuously growing organization. Can you tell us how it all began?

 

I have always been passionate about volunteering, so I was volunteering in some organizations. But I wanted to make a difference in the typical volunteering experience and enrich the quality of volunteer work in Sri Lanka. So I combined all those experiences with the support of some friends, and I started my own organization to work on various progressive endeavors that I wanted to focus on. 

 

Who do you target?

We target youth that is between 18-30. We empower them with skills and give them opportunities to give back to the community using the skills that they have developed.

 

What is your biggest wish for IYAP? What do you wish to achieve?

We specifically wanted to empower the youth and form a volunteer based organization that initiate the most wanted difference in volunteerism where the entire organization is solely run by the youth. These spirited youth have always been given the liberty to actively get involved in the conceptualization of project ideas and in the decision making process of the organization as well.

 

All of the decision-making is left to the youth. On what basis do you hand that over to the volunteers?

Most of the volunteers have been with me since the very beginning and they come from good educational backgrounds. We also have some highly qualified individuals amongst us, including a university lecturer and a person working with the NGO sector for almost a decade. We also have an advisory panel consisting of professionals in various fields, so I believe that the decision making ultimately happens as a team.

 

There are so many issues going on. How does IYAP choose what area that you work on?

 

We mostly focus on projects outside of Colombo, especially the North and the East. When an idea is pitched to us by youth, we make it work depending on how sustainable it will be. Our projects include Disability sensitization and “Grey to Green” a project involved in environmental conservation. A personal favorite is “Youth Matters”, a series of round table discussions that enables youth to discuss problems that we face. Here we understand various needs that we have to focus on.

 

What makes IYAP so different from other organizations?

We only focus on the youth, and we always have sustainable projects that will ensure progress. And one of the unique things about our organization is that we work for peace and hence inclusion and pluralism are embedded within and beyond the scope of our organization. We don’t discriminate our members nor we differentiate them  based on gender, ethnicity, disabilities etc   with regard to the opportunities we provide them to grow and achieve more. We also team up with other organizations, because we believe that coming together with one cause always has a better impact. We work as a network. We’ve worked with large organizations such as UN and a World Vision and we’ve also worked with organizations in rural areas that no one has ever heard of. 

 

What is the future of IYAP?

We hope to branch out to other countries in the future, establishing groups that work towards the betterment of humanity, as a whole. 

 

What is your message for the youth of Sri Lanka?

Do a little each day to give back to the community, expecting nothing in return. Also, manage your time in such a way that you have time for everything and you’re able to balance your work and your life. I also think that the best thing for youth to do is to unite regardless of race or caste.

 

Thirukumar believes the biggest success story of IYAP is the people involved in it, from the professionals who offer their expertise to the volunteers who dedicate their time and energy.

If you’re interested in working together with IYAP, their website is www.iyapsl.org. Interested individuals can also message them on their Facebook for further inquiries.

 

Sarah Ashroff  Mariam

Breaking boundaries and building peace

PEACE IN ACTION, a youth-led workshop for peace-building organized by the International Youth Alliance for Peace (IYAP), was held from 28th August – 30th August 2015 at Spectrum Institute of Science and Technology, No 100, Bauddhaloka Mawatte, Colombo 04. The workshop was an initiative of the IYAP to promote peace through community-led social development and youth empowerment. It focused on various themes including leadership, youth empowerment, gender-based discrimination, human rights, environmental sustainability and social entrepreneurship.

Starting at 10:00 am on 28th August 2015, the first session on leadership and community engagement was facilitated by Krishan Balaji, a member of the Rotaract District Committee. He encouraged the participants of the workshop to take a stand against injustice when they witness it, instead of turning a blind eye. The second session titled “Participation of youth in politics” was conducted by Ishan Jalill, an international champion of the Leonard Cheshire Global Alliance. Also the President and Founder of the youth movement, Action Against Apathy, Mr. Jalill emphasized the importance of political awareness and civic participation among young people, citing the Arab Spring as a significant instance where the youth united to overturn corrupt regimes and dictatorships with the help of social media. He also strongly advocated standing up for the oppressed, quoting the famous words of the German pastor, Martin Niemöller, who publicly opposed the Nazi during WWII:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”

The next facilitator, Sachinda Dulanjana, a youth volunteer, addressed the participants on the spirit of volunteerism, making the crucial point that volunteerism starts at home. Putting to rest a popular misconception, he explained that volunteerism is not simply about marching in rallies carrying placards, but that it has to extend to every facet of an activist’s life.

Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, founder Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives and the founder Director of the Sri Lanka Chapter of Transparency International, conducted the following discourse on interfaith dialogue, human rights and peace. Having played an active part in the process of rebuilding peace in Sri Lanka after the 30-year conflict, he stressed on the importance of bringing the perpetrators of war crimes to justice via a transparent tribunal and granting closure to the victims of war. The facilitator for the last session of the day was Joanne Kotalawale, UN Youth volunteer and environmentalist. She concluded Day One with a discussion on social entrepreneurship, a concept which plays a significant role in the peace-building process as a method of income to the victims of civil war in Sri Lanka.

The second day of the workshop was kicked off by Bernadine Jayasinghe, Managing Directress at Sirius Academy and news anchor at MTV. She conducted a number of entertaining team-based activities to illustrate her topic, “Team Building, Group dynamic & Discovering Peace.” In one of the exercises, she handed balloons and pins to each participant and asked them to blow the balloons up and “guard” them. Pandemonium resulted with all the participants trying to burst everyone else’s balloons while simultaneously trying to protect their own. The balloons, Ms. Jayasinghe said later, symbolized one’s happiness and peace of mind and the scrimmage that ensued was indicative of the lengths one would go to protect one’s own happiness while destroying another’s.

The second huddle of Day Two was facilitated by Megara Tegal, journalist, photographer and youth activist, on “Tweeting for Social Change.” She advocated Twitter as an effective platform for social media journalism and activism, as it is fast, reliable and has no filter. One of the ongoing issues addressed in the session was the mainstream media suppression of the reports of Coca cola’s oil leak in Kelani River that recently contaminated drinking water. Columnist, blogger and member of the International Youth Task Force, Senel Wanniarachi, conducted the subsequent discussion on “Writing for Social Change”, in which he spoke about the use of new media tools to drive social change. Shayani Weerasinghe, Consultant at Environment Foundations Ltd., was the facilitator for the session on environmental sustainability, during which she commended the participants’ grasp of environmental issues and the keys to sustaining and protecting natural resources.

Specialist in conflict analysis and South East Asian politics, Dr. Ajith Balasooriya, spoke on the succeeding theme on the agenda, “Conflict Resolution and Peace Building.” He called for the disintegration of the caste system within communities, saying that it would be a progressive step towards keeping peace. Dr. Maneesha Wanasinghe-Pasqual, also a specialist in conflict analysis and human rights, rounded up the day’s activities with an interactive session on conflict violence and conflict analysis tools. She highlighted the need for tracing conflict back to its roots before attempting a resolution, so that a better understanding of the underlying motives is achieved in order to effectively put an end to violence.

Abdul Halik Azeez, writer and activist, who has gained widespread recognition on Instagram for his unique take on conceptual and street photography, set into motion the final day of the workshop. His session on narrative photography included an activity which involved the participants’ use of photographic, journalistic and artistic skills to capture and describe meaningful images of everyday life on the streets. The participants used Instagram as a platform to publish the results. One of the stories the project unearthed was of D. M. Dissanayake, 84, who had traveled to Colombo from Kandy, looking for work after being abandoned by his children. He was encountered by the young participants at the doorstep of an adjacent jewelry store, where he lived and slept. Though arthritic and frail, the old man’s fierce sense of independence made him scorn the idea of living closeted in an Elders’ Home. Instead, he preferred to earn a pittance by doing odd jobs for customers at the Manning market and live on his own terms.

The three day workshop culminated with a thought-provoking session on gender equality, sexual and reproductive rights by V. Thushandra, a Global Youth Advocate for sexual and reproductive health and rights. His session challenged the participants’ set precepts and ideas on gender, sexuality and related rights and ended with a rousing debate between the participants on issues such as abortion and LGBTQ rights. Certificates were awarded to the participants at the end of the workshop by Adhil Bakeer Markar, Director at the National Youth Services Council.

The workshop was a positive step towards peace and progress in the country, with more than fifty young people from all over the island attending. Young artist Vicky, 22, a participant at the workshop, said, “I [saw] so much potential and positive growth. It was so much fun meeting everyone there.”  Reemah, 21, added, “It was an amazing experience being a part of this workshop. I learned to see things from a completely different perspective and it has inspired me to be more socially aware.”

Writing for Change – Aspirar 2.1

ASPIRAR 2.1, a media-skills and journalism workshop organized by the International Youth Alliance for Peace (IYAP), was held on the 16th and 17th of January 2016, at Spectrum Institute of Science and Technology, No 100, Bauddhaloka Mawatte, Colombo 04. The workshop focused mainly on themes such as social media, journalism and short-film making. It was an initiative of the IYAP to educate young people about media, journalism and photography, thereby empowering them contribute to the progress of society through these mediums. The participants of this workshop were undergraduate students from various universities and institutes around the country.

Starting at 9:10 AM, the first day of the workshop included a session on “Media Ethics” by Sukumar Rockwood, the Chief Executive Officer of the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka (PCSSL). This was followed by a comprehensive discourse on interview skills by Sulochana Ramiah, the Deputy Editor at Ceylon Today. A session on feature writing was subsequently conducted by Thirukumar Premakumar, Features Editor at Virakesari. The first day was rounded up with an interactive session on short film and documentary-making by Arshad Najudeen, a former producer and news anchor at ITN. As a part of this session, the participants at the workshop were asked to form groups and create scripts for short films based on the theme, social awareness.

The second day of the workshop was kicked off by a session on social media by young writer and columnist, Senel Wanniarachchi, who spoke of the significant role played by the internet and social media in the implementation of human rights, as well as in modern revolutions. Following this session, a short film-making competition was held where groups of attendees were allocated a photographer each, in order to allow them to create and enact short films based on the scripts they penned on the first day. The final session for the day was facilitated by a young journalist, Aisha Nazim, and it focused on the topic “Creative and news writing.” The participants were given a chance to exercise their literary skills during this session. The programme was interspersed with ice-breaker activities that allowed the participants to relax, interact with each other and enjoy themselves in between sessions.

The workshop was a positive step taken by the IYAP towards empowering and educating young people in the country. Undergraduate student, Achini, 22, who attended the workshop, said, “I loved the programme. It was an interesting experience, especially the short film-making session. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know and all of us had a great time sharing ideas and trying out new things.” The IYAP is a youth-based volunteer organization that works towards reconciliation and the eradication of conflict and violence in the country. In addition, it equips young people with the required knowledge and skills to build a sustainable future. Apart from youth development workshops, IYAP is also involved in several campaigns and action-oriented programs.

For more information about the IYAP, please visit www.iyapsl.org, www.facebook/IYAP.org, www.twitter/iyap_org, send an email to iyapofficial@gmail.com or contact the national coordinator of IYAP, Thariq Ahamed via the phone number 0094773144814.