Activiating Youth

First appeared in the Sunday Times Mirror Magazine on 30th March 2008.

One in every six people in the world is a young person. And all over the world, young people almost always have been the first to speak out on issues that are affecting them, and their communities. Be it in the form of a silent protest, an uprising or a publicity stunt, youth activism is seen as a key component in an active and vigilant civil society.

We spoke to a few of Sri Lankan young people who are active in the social sphere of youth activism. Whilst some of them explicitly identified the work they do as youth activism, some were in the opinion that they are simply “doing something they like.” Some see youth activism in Sri Lanka as being limited to an elite group, who are from the urbanized areas, who have had a privileged education etc., who are the offspring of individuals who are active in the civil society movements.

Bimsara (26) was of the view that youth activism in Sri Lanka is either non-existent, or is short lived. She went on to say “Even the ones who get involved, do so for a short period of time or with very limited activities.” The main issues which young people in Sri Lanka focus on are seen as issues like employment, as they are more heartfelt, personal issues and some of the youth uprisings in the past are generally tied to issues around employment. “Young people are active or aware that they can play a role at the policy level.”

A few initiatives are visible in Sri Lanka as examples of youth activism. One such organization is the Beyond Borders project. This was initially founded as a project by an international organization working in Sri Lanka, but today has evolved into a completely youth run voluntary body. They work on issues ranging form sex education to conflict studies, all under the main theme and objective of promoting active global citizenship. Beyond Borders project takes on a direct approach, with most of their efforts focused on action instead of policy. They also use new media such as blogging and alternative media such as forum theatre in reaching out to the communities. More information can be found at their frequently updated blog (this!)

Deane (21) whose passion lies in liberal economics, does not see himself as a youth activist. “I just do what I like doing.” And his view is most young people are motivated by what they do, and do not see it as “activism.”

Another example of young people working on social change, is the Sri Lankan Youth Parliament. Regarded as Sri Lanka’s first youth-led, youth-run initiative, SLYP works under different areas of action, with the final goal of creating a cohesive Sri Lanka. This organization differs from the Beyond Borders project, as SLYP has access to national level policies, and has contributed to various policies relating to young people. The approach SLYP incorporates is a self-empowerment process for young people, where the young people themselves are the social change agent. They are in the process of organizing the second cycle of action, having completed two years of active social change. More information on the Youth Parliament can be found on their website

“Its young people today who will take over tomorrow. Therefore it’s important that they have a sense of social responsibility about what’s happening around them,” said Sachith (20), whose passion includes environment and global warming. However, he doesn’t think the level of engagement in Sri Lanka is adequate. “I don’t think we can be proud of the level of involvement”. His view is that more awareness is needed in young people, and that some young people tend to ignore issues affecting them. Talking of the socio-political environment, he’s of the opinion that young people are seen not seen as partners, but are expected to remain dormant. Young people are usually seen as the leaders of tomorrow, but they are now also playing a part as partners for positive social change today, taking control of issues which affect them, and working for the betterment of the society as a whole.

By Pink Boxing Gloves.

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Posted on 04/02/2008, in Media, Opinions, Sri Lanka, Youth-Culture-Society and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I should really protest this “Liberal Economics” label. What does that mean ne way? for the record, my ‘passions’ are diverse :P.

    And sachith is into Global Warming? LOL.

    But I’m wholeheartedly with the idea of getting rid of this patronizing “Youth are the future” nonsense. We are very much the present, b*tch. Put that one your speech or think of something else to say.

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