Author Archives: bbposter

The Sacred Vote

We visited a community of Northern Displaced IDPs in Puttlam recently. This was part of our Peace and Governance initiative, an effort to improve cohesion between youth and the entity we call Governance.

We had 3 discussions in course of our visit; the first was with a group of youth, the second with a young provincial council member elected to Jaffna and the last was with a few officials and community representatives from the Community Trust Fund.

Their problems are complex and community discourse has reached a fever pitch with the war ending and the possibilities of relocating to their old homes becoming a reality.

But we found yet another issue that mainly was faced by the youth; young people are facing an inability to act upon their right to vote. Most youngsters who have left the territories before the age of being eligible to vote have not received their voting registration forms yet.

So we got together with a bunch of other young people and wrote a letter to the Elections Commissioner about it. A lot of much more useful work has been done in this regard of course by organizations like CPA and CTF. We heard that the elections commissioner was due to release a circular enabling them to vote during this election, but are yet to find out what came of it.

A casual report on our discussion with the IDP youth can be viewed here.

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Wherefore art thou, voters?

Pic by Dinidu de Alwis / Perambara

Spoiling the vote

Quite a few people I’ve spoken to are spoiling their vote. This, to me, doesn’t really make sense. On the one hand, I can see how spoiling your vote is you showing your displeasure at all of the candidates, but that will probably have as much effect as sticking your tongue out at an election poster. I can also see how it could satisfy the smart ass in you to write a pithy comment or stinging quote on your ballot but really, who’s going to care? Voting in this election means making a tough, almost impossible, choice.

Though I know many who are staunch supporters of both candidates, I myself still haven’t made up my mind, and I know many who face the same dilemma. In the end the choice is between a rock and a hard place and it all comes down to who you think will screw us over less. Spoiling your vote however, seems pretty pointless to me. It may be idealistic and naïve to think that in our current political climate your vote will make any difference. Heck, even I don’t think it will. But it’s one of the basic rights that we still have, our ability to vote, to be a part of a democracy(?), and it is your duty to exercise it, to make your voice, as hushed as it may be, heard.

Wanting the vote

We recently visited the Northern displaced Muslim community in Puttalam. One of their most significant issues was the difficulties faced in registering to vote. Those born after 1990, which was the year of their displacement from the North, and those who reached the eligible voting age of 18 after 1990 are not registered for voting in their place of origin. We heard their stories of applying for registration numerous times only to be lost in the system. So what are the structures and systems set up for this type of issue to be dealt with before the election, to make sure all eligible citizens are able to exercise their right to vote?

Grassroots campaigns and youth involvement

I was in university in New York during Obama’s 2008 election campaign. We followed the election with a lot of interest because it was a pivotal event, a prospective regime change, if you will. And what was remarkable about his campaign was the grassroots involvement, the active participation of youth in registration drives, in rallies, in campaigning. We had students from the Democratic and Republican parties walking into lectures with registration forms, asking us to register to vote, and the youth responded in unprecedented numbers on election day. So where are our youth? Most people my age, and I may well be speaking for the Colombo-educated lot when I say this, but most of us are embarrassingly apathetic to what goes on in our own country. As long as we have food, clothes and coffeehouses readily available, we are more than happy to not concern ourselves with the fact that our tax money is being spent on posters and billboards and airlines.

Why vote?

Because you should, because you have a responsibility, and if you don’t, then please spare us your arm chair politics. If you don’t think your voice should count, then you might as well be silent.

Tehani Ariyaratne

Tehani is a Core Group Member of Beyond Borders and has a degree in psychology. She repeatedly tries and fails to read our minds through psychoanalysis but to her credit, she is a very insightful and resourceful person. Her opinions are her own.

On a related note; Beyond Borders’ Peace and Governance initiative is set to tackle the problem of apathy and lack of awareness of governance in the spectrum of youth. Watch this blog for more on this soon…

Going, Going, Green!

The Project Act launch event was held on October 24th, coinciding with the International Day of Climate Action. It consisted of a clean-up of Wellawatte beach, and a demonstration geared towards spreading the Act message ‘Go Green Now’ as well as showing Sri Lanka’s support towards effective policy changes on climate change in Copenhagen, December 2009.

The event was a tremendous success, with over 350 participants representing Interact, Roteract, HSBC, Practical Action and more. The beach was cleaned by the collection crews and the collected waste was separated in to degradeable and non-degradeable waste which was handed over to the CMC for disposal.

The 350 event kicked off with a round of ice breakers, introductions to Beyond Borders, Project Act and 350, the signing of the pledge “I pledge to ACT wherever, whenever and do whatever to help Sri Lanka go green and the ‘adopt a tree’ segment. Special guests at the event included Hon. Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Champika Ranawaka, the Director of British Council Gill Westaway, the Director of Press and Cultural Affairs, Embassy of the United States Jeff Anderson, Omar Kamil, Special Commssioner CMC, Justice CG Weeramanthri, Roshan Gunawardena from the CEA and Anjali Watson from the Environment Programme CHA.

After the opening activities, the demonstrators proceed to Wellawatte on Galle Road, with their placards and banners, which drew substantial attention to our cause.  The event culminated in the formation of a human 350 on the beach, a photograph of which was sent into 350.org to show support towards their global campaign.

Thank you everyone who came out to be a part of this event and show your support for positive environmental change in Sri Lanka, and hopefully, Copenhagen. Special thanks to the crew from HSBC, and all the Interactors and Roteractors who made up the bulk of our cleaning crew: you guys did an impressive job! Thank you to our invitees for your support and Naren and Anjali from the Environment Programme at CHA for your help in planning the event and all the technical support. Thank you to the work crews and the CMC team for all their help. And finally a big thank you to the Project Act committee for putting together this event on such short notice and making it such a success.

See here for photographs from the event, here for the media coverage and hereto follow the Project Act blog.

Jerked

At school; everyone's friendly after the play..

At school; everyone very friendly after the play.

Jerk? went well. The turn out was good and the cast was in top form. Many intervened and came up with their views and we are grateful to everyone who was present for helping us make it a success.

We are in the process of preparing a report on our findings and will share it as soon as it is complete. Also, optimistic plans are underway to do a few more performances to raise awareness of ADHD in the near future (fingers crossed). Pictures of the play will be up soon on flickr 🙂

Forum theater is one of Beyond Borders’ most eloquent modes of communication. If you’d like to do theater with us, well you’re in luck because we’re recruiting.

Our thanks go out to the following blogs which highlighted Jerk? before and after its screening; ASOB NQIM, The Abyss, The Ultimate Change, The Whackter’s Lair and to everyone who tweeted about it as well. Don’t think we missed anyone, but apologies if we did.

Jerk?

A Forum Theater Performance on Learning Disabilities

  • Date: 29th August 2009
  • Time: 10.00am to 12.00pm
  • Venue: Punchi Theatre, Borella

Entrance by invitation only, if you want one email us to info[at]beyondborders.lk with a couple of lines explaining your interest in attending the play.

What is Forum Theatre?
Forum theater began when Augusto Boal had the brilliant idea of allowing the audience to stop, modify and change the course of his drama performances; enhancing the overall experience of everyone involved in a novel manner. Today, this particular branch of theatre is known as Forum Theater.

FT is useful in bringing out complex issues attached to sensitive social topics and has been used by Beyond Borders to highlight a range of social issues during the last few years.

What is ‘Jerk?’
This time around the Forum Theater tackles the tricky subject of the misconceptions and issues facing youngsters with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It takes you through the roller coaster ride of our protagonist Rajeev, as he copes with the effects of ADHD and society’s often antagonistic reactions to it. It will be a morning of exciting infotainment and learning.

For invites call
0777 491 718 or  0777 335 320 (limited invites)

or email us info[at]beyondborders.lk

Poetry with Teeth

Poetry has long been a form of activism. From the early Greek philosophers who wrote promoting their thoughts and ideas in the form of the acclaimed dialogue, contributing to the reshaping of their societies, to the greats of the Enlightenment that helped shape the Industrial Revolution to modern day activists and slam poetry, poems have always been used to play a role in identifying the connection between the material world around us and the relating emotions that run through our collective conscience.

Human beings are primarily creatures of emotion living in a society structured around the assumption that we are in fact, logical. Therefore we first and foremost examine our feelings with questions to make sense of the world around us. So all our standings in relation to external events are ultimately based on emotion and feeling, ‘rationality’ is simply what arises as the ultimate result of this examination, it’s roots are invariably plugged into some base ideology that is held as belief.

Poetry delineates emotions and can inspire raw feeling in people that can change their outlook. And, like any form of activism, poetic activism also changes and inspires society into taking new directions. It taps into people’s core feelings, identifies with them and exposes them. It inspires action sometimes, or sometimes just an understanding nod, but there is a message, and its usually enough if it is communicated.

Now we don’t need to get all hoity toity about it. You don’t have to be a Ph.D in philosophy or decked out with the finest wordplay of a slam poet’s arsenal to engage in activism. Poetic activism is everyday, its everywhere, its in blogposts, facebook notes, you tube. Anywhere there is creativity, emotion and an appeal to a change of norms, there is poetic activism.

If you haven’t already, check out Def Poetry Jam. If you haven’t already seen or heard of Def poetry then its time you did, they sound like rappers minus the bling bling and pro drug advocacy. Artistes like Steve Coleman, Lemon, Suheir Hammad, Rives etc. explore themes as diverse as racism, love, terrorism, nationalism and most other isms that you can think of, and then some.

Political tension and repressed emotions like fear and anger etc cause a lot of people to speak out. Sri Lanka has been a hotbed of fear, anger and suspicion especially over the past few months, when the war came finally crunching down to its bloody stop. From introspections of ‘water filter’ warriors fearing armed attacks on the way to work, to musings on the nature of the national flag, to the denouncing of barbaric practices, to  patrotism and the spilling of blood, to my humble attempt at describing my feelings of dependence on independence day, to attempts at distilling freedom, individualism and control; poetic activism is all over the place. If you’re reading this, just click through some blogs and see what you can find. Or start writing yourselves.

There has been an increasing surge of poetry as a form of activisim throughout the last century, complicating W.H Auden’s claim that ‘poetry makes nothing happen’. Poetry, or poetic literature has influenced history throughout its existence. Or some like to think so. Significant events throughout history have always been accompanied by their own unique brand of literature and poetic activism, the most recent the African American uprising of the last century. But did these artists actually change societies with their craft? or were they simply a symptom of changing times? And are poets and poetic activists simply another brand of armchair/notebook/facebook warriors?

Halik Azeez

“poems are bullshit unless they have teeth” Amiri Baraka

Halik is a poet who blogs here, and occationaly graces Open Mic. He wrote a piece for the BB blog a while back here, and we’re still quite eagerly awaiting his abduction, so that we can blog about it. He is also in charge of the Communications section of BB, which would explain a lot about how talkative we are.

You know you’re patriotic when..

When? You tell me. ‘Cos I don’t know. Obviously in the current context, if you are still cheering for the tigers then that not only makes you extremely unpatriotic it also by default makes you a cold blooded killer. Also being patriotic to Eelam right now is not so cool seeing as at best they only have five square kilometres of land left. Hah, let’s see them set up a cricket grounds in there. If they get to keep it that is.

If I call the President a dufus, then would that make me unpatriotic? Technically no but then I’m sure the vast majority of this country wouldn’t really care much about technicalities, more used to worship of leaders than rational thought. Not that I think the President is a dufus, but my point is that I should still be able to denounce the leadership of this country without my ‘patriotism’ being questioned.

The ultimate point that I am driving at is that ‘patriotism’ as a concept does not exist, meaning that it does not have a fixed, non-superficial meaning. Sure ‘patriotism’ the word can be used to indicate a love for one’s country but ‘love’ takes many forms and what form of love patriotism should take is largely dependent on the person that expresses that love. You cannot standardize patriotism.

Read the rest of this entry

We are Training Trainers

 

Picture of Facilitating a session

Facilitating a session on something very simple

We are conducting a Training of Trainers programme for bright young people on the concepts of Active Global Citizenship, under our Citienship Education programme. The residential workshop will start on Friday (3rd of April) evening (after work), and run till Sunday (5th) evening somewhere in Colombo. 

The TOT is aimed at young people, activists and youth in civil society organizations who are engaged in or interested in engaging in civic education (citizenship education) for young people. The program would introduce a broad range of topics including issues related to gender, peace, conflict, governance and also would consist of skills building sessions on facilitation skills and working with youth.

The participants would also get a chance to take a first hand look at a resource pack on citizenship education compiled by Beyond Borders and apply it in the work in their communities. The resource pack is a compilation of tools and exercises which can be used for workshops and sessions on various themes, which fall under Active Global Citizenship.

The applicants must be under the age of 26, must have an interest in civic education and must commit to conduct follow up workshops in their communities for young people after the training program with. They are also welcome, and encouraged to join Beyond Borders as volunteers following the programme.

As only a very limited number of slots are currently available, if you’re interested send us an email to radhi[at]beyondborders.lk.

 To apply directly, please fill in this form ASAP. We are finalizing selections by Monday.  

To get more information about the project, read the concept note(pdf).  A Draft Agenda for the three days can also be downloaded here.

.. and Yes, we will be providing food and a place to sleep and No, you can’t come only for one day. If you have any more queries, drop an email to radhi[at]beyondborders.lk and we’ll get back to you soon.

On Youth, Youth Policies and Conflict

K. Guruparan — a BB-ite, father of the Sri Lankan Youth Parliament and well-known youth activist, spoke at a regional youth conference on youth organized by International Alert, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and the Ministry of Youth.

Below is a synopsis of the comments he made as reported on the Bottomline newspaper.

The disillusionment of the youth in the North on the promises made by the moderate Tamil leadership led to the insurgency in the North while the disillusionment of the youth in the South on the promises made by the Old Left led to the insurgency in the 1970s, Sri Lanka Youth Parliament Member and Youth Activist K. Guruparan stated.

“No one can say that the current militia in both regions have a ‘youthful’ element, but it is undeniable that their origins were born out of youth unrest,” he said adding that in the North and the East, the ‘normalisation’ of war where the abnormal (eg; the killing of five in a village) is a normal day to day process, is very worrying. “We must work towards getting them out of this mentality. We must give the youth in the North and the East to come out and speak. To silence them is to suppress them and weaken them.”

Speaking of the state of the youth in the North and the East, Guruparan explained that the unemployment rates in the North and the East are 13% and 15.9% respectively, much higher than the national average. “While the national average of those who prefer work in the public sector is 53.4%, in the North and East it’s as much as 75%.”

He also pointed out that in the South now, most of the income coming into the region to the rural poor came from army recruitment and compensation. “We need a National Youth Policy, but we understand that the current draft does not refer to the ‘conflict’ in the country at all,” he informed, “And as a representative of the youth, we want the Policy to be more than just a piece of paper. We request a legislation to be enacted that holds individuals accountable to implement the Policy for the betterment of the youth.”

He stated that the recent Presidential Commission on Youth called for one third of the nominations in the Provincial Council to be represented by the Youth, but that the youth are then allocated to seats that the party does not win. “The most pressing need now is to have the ethnic conflict resolved and have civil society actively work towards the future of this country.” [bottomline]

The article covers comments made by other speakers at the event.

More about youth policies on this blog includes posts titled,  “young people are the future” and other nonsensePrinciples of meaningful youth participationYouth Participation and Democracy and How to make youth policy in three steps.

Here’s to the Crazy ones..

Here’s to the crazy ones.

The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo.

You can quote them.
Disagree with them.
Glorify, or vilify them.
But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They push the human race forward.

And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

From a well known advert by Apple for a little morning inspiration. Here’s the video.