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.