Category Archives: Youth-Culture-Society

OBR in Pictures

Click on an image to view slide show.

-Megara Tegal

Meg is a member of the steering committee of Beyond Borders. She’s a journalist and a world class klutz. She blogs here. Her opinions are her own.

Sri Lanka’s Youth Plan for Sustainable Development

The Rio+20 Summit is in full swing and the Sri Lankan arm has taken its first initiative, in which a statement has been presented to the Minister of Environment. Post-war Sri Lanka certainly is in need of a system of sustainable development and at this stage the country has a fresh start in which adopting such a system is relatively trouble free; or so it should be.

The statement that encapsulates several vital areas in sustainable development was drafted by over 30 youth-led and youth-focus local organizations that are involved in environmental conservation, management, climate change, sustainable development and advocacy for environmental issues. Bringing these organizations together and orchestrating Sri Lanka’s participation in the Rio Summit, is the Youth for a Greener Sri Lanka (YGSL) that was established earlier this year (March 2012). The statement is a position paper on which future projects will be based. The paper was presented to the Ministry of Environment, as the ministry had arranged for the involvement of youth groups in the process. Nashen Gunesekera, the drafting committee chair, says it shows the enthusiasm of the government as other governments had not involved environmental conscious volunteer groups, apart from the ministry’s own.

Attaining sustainable development

A large team of local environmentally conscious youths has formulated a multipronged action plan, addressing several key areas that are intrinsic in the development of a nation. Top of the list and under the umbrella of youth policy positions, the statement mentions society’s role in sustainable development. The activists believe that equality is essential, they explained “our aspiration is equality for all, and not the luxury of the 20 per cent of the world’s people who enjoy the exploitation of 80 per cent of its resources.”

Well-being and happiness as well as right mindfulness were also highlighted as the cornerstone to sustainable development. Society being at the heart of development, even with an extraordinary physical plan, it cannot fruition sans the right mindset of the people.

The economy is another key area that needs to be addressed, and therefore, the team included environmental sustainability and poverty reduction, and a Green Economy in the statement. YGSL explains, “A Green Economy should replace the current economic order of inequity, destruction and greed. A Green Economy should be an economic system that ensures social equity, protects the ecological balance and creates economic sufficiency. The core idea of a Green Economy should be to enforce sustainability, specifically the wellbeing of all people and respecting and preserving the biodiversity of Earth’s ecosystems.

A green economy manages consumption and production in an environmentally conscious manner. The document indicated, Agenda 21 (Chapter 4.3), which is an outcome of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED 1992) states that; “The major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment is the unsustainable pattern of consumption and production, particularly in industrialized countries, which is a matter of grave concern, aggravating poverty and imbalances.” According to the team enabling the SCP should be the focus of any emerging international outcome. SCP is a systemic process of lifestyle and livelihood behaviours that ensures the wellbeing of all people in an equitable manner while conserving the ecology for current and future generations.

Political solutions are on the cards as well as sustainable development governance, which they said, “We understand Sustainable Development Governance should necessarily create platforms at every level for the voice of youth to be heard and to be considered within the decision making processes, for it is on the shoulders of youth the responsibility rests.”

On that note they believe it is necessary to establish an office for the ombudsperson — high commission for future generations. “We the youth representatives of Youth for a Greener Sri Lanka understand that there is a lacuna in current decision making processes and institutions of the world, especially as all of them fail to consider the long term effects of decisions made today. The proposal stated at paragraph 57 of the Zero Outcome document calling for the establishment of an Ombudsperson/High Commissioner for Future Generations is thus an opportunity to meet this short coming and by establishing such an office, we believe that both the aspirations of youth and future generations will be protected.”

How Sustainable Development Can be Achieved

The team also presented a set of recommendation that can be adopted by the Government of Sri Lanka as well as the governments in the international arena. They laid emphasis on the inclusion of the youth at all levels of decision making so the future can be shaped to suit the next generation better. The team expressed, “We wish to state by participation, youth are empowered and are given the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential hence enabling them to harness their skills required to move the world toward the paradigm shift which is necessary to achieve economic growth, social equity and environmental sustainability.”

Employment for the youth is also mandatory for a better greener future, according to the local Rio+20 Summit members. “At present there is a lack of green job initiatives and access to green skills training programmes for young people. We believe bridging the skills gap among young people through improved education and training will be a key to achieving environmental objectives and a transition to a green economy.”

Education and training  —  skills development opportunities, the opportunity for youth to volunteer to achieve sustainable development.

The President will present the paper as part of the country report at the summit. Neshan Gunesekara said, “The international community will analyze, scrutinize and criticize the paper. The point of presenting the paper at an international forum is so that other countries can take stock of what Sri Lanka has achieved over the years and adopt some of these strategies that will help them.

He added that, he personally believes that the youth of Sri Lanka is very environmentally conscious, and they have shown an initiative but what they lack, is the support of the government and other authorities, in implementing plans and taking their concerns into consideration.

Well, that’s good news for BB too. Having particular goals will help us channel our efforts in these areas and those connected to contribute to sustainable development in Sri Lanka. It should also make devising project plans easier. So three cheers to our Rio paper!

-Megara Tegal

Meg is a member of the steering committee of Beyond Borders. She’s a journalist and a world class klutz. She blogs here. Her opinions are her own.

The Dansala of Inspiration

Vesak 2012

Pic by Rushda Mohinudeen

What comes to mind when you think of Vesak? I am sure you’re reminded of observing sil, going to the temple and worshipping, the jathaka stories, the stories from life of Lord Buddha, the importance of the Dhamma etc. I am sure that thoughts of making Vesak koodu (lanterns) at home, of the lavishly lit thoran (pandols) and dansal will run on the fringe of your mind as well.

Whilst the religious activities continued throughout the weekend, where many visited the temples to observe sil or to engage in the Dhamma, at night, the country was up in lights and music. Throngs of people walked on the roads or got in to trucks to go see Vesak. To enjoy the massive thoran which depict stories from Lord Buddha’s life or to enjoy food from a dansala.

Speaking of Dansal, the only thing that comes to a Sri Lankan’s mind is food! Various kinds of food, be it a hot meal of rice and curry or ice cream. However, this year Beyond Borders gave the word dansala and its concept, a whole new meaning! Working on the lines of inspiring, Beyond Borders decided to have an ‘Inspiration Dansala’ whereby distributing quotes from the Dhammapada, to the general public making the people more aware of the meaning behind this religious celebrations.

Making of the BBites Dansala board

Joining the people on the streets of Colombo, the guys and girls from Beyond Borders gathered near the Gangarama Temple to spread the inspiration to the people. With a few hiccups at the start, the distribution of these quotes had a lovely response with some people coming behind the energetic team asking for more sticker quotes, or asking for translations!

A rather blurry pic of the BBites distributing… inspiration!

Even though our team was a little hesitant in getting this going, we felt welcomed by the response from the people. The overall experience was overwhelming!

Bhagya Senaratne

Bhagya is a board member of Beyond Borders. She is currently reading for her MA in International Relations and she’s our mole in the government. She blogs here. Her opinions are her own.

Time Travel

Come. Join us as we take you back in time, centuries into the past when Sri Lanka was an unexplored little island. We’ll trace back to how your ancestors got to the speck of an island that you call home– whether you’re Sinhalese, Tamil, Burgher, Moor or Malay or smurf.

Expert on the Subject, Asiff Hussein–anthropologist, linguist and journalist, will lead the discussion offering his knowledge on the subject. Feel free to ask questions and explore a bit of history .

Bohemian Pursuits

Rajiv is torn between pleasing his parents and pursing his passion. Time is running out and he’s cornered into choosing a safe but dull career in the field of commerce or trying his luck as an artist. As the walls close in on him, Rajiv picks the latter; but at a dire cost of losing his family.

What would you suggest could improve the course of events and bring about a happy ending?

All those who’d come for the Galle Literary Festival had the chance to help Rajiv and his family, as the BB FT team staged ‘Bohemian Pursuits’. Enacting events from Rajiv’s life from making his decision to becoming a successful albeit uncaring artist- callously refusing to attend his father’s funeral.

The overall play highlighted many pertinent issues brought up by the youth in Galle. These include the influence of foreigners who seems to be taking over the fort, parent-child relationships, ambition, career guidance and the Sri Lankan mentality regarding ‘acceptable careers’.

The FT was performed twice at the Galle Literary Festival and here are some scenes from play.

And we present the FT team-

Hard work, sleepless nights and a bumpy ride to Galle- the team charged on and performed the first BB FT down south.

This is the first of many more FTs by BB that will be performed out of Colombo this year. Watch this blog for more updates.

Performing Virus

Member of the audience changing a scene in the play

No; not like a virus circus that can only be viewed through an electron microscope. This was a notch better. Our Forum Theatre group staged a play about HIV AIDS- how the disease is contracted, how to protect yourself and wrong notions about the disease.

It was back on 10 December at the Royal Skills Centre Auditorium. It went pretty well with several interventions during each scene, questions raised, answers delivered and a happier not-so-oppressed character in the end.

A big thank you out to all of you who attended the performance! Keep watch of the blog; we’ll be posting teaser trailers of the next Forum Theatre performance- ‘Bohemian Pursuits’ which we’ll be performing for the Galle Literary Festival. Here’s hoping we see you there!

Gearing up for the Galle Lit Fest

Preparing for the Focus Group discussion

In the run up to the 2012 Galle Literary Festival in which Beyond Borders will be participating in  two sessions, we decided to run down to Galle to gather some ideas for our dramas.

We didn’t get up early in the morning, as is customary when going our of Colombo, to catch a bus. Rather we decided to go a little late and well late we did become. However, we managed to have a lovely bus ride to Galle, chilled, well rested and ready for action!

We spoke to youth residing both within the Galle Fort and outside, and were enlightened to a variety of issues that were unique to that area.

The youth we spoke to, between the ages of 16 and 20, mostly felt that their parents were not giving them the freedom they sought. This was the key issue, resonating the discussion throughout the time we spent in discussion with them. This when questioned, boiled down to external problems like the Western influence within the Fort. According to the children, the parents felt that they were unable to give too much freedom to their children because they might run astray. We realised the locals were experiencing a certain reverse culture clash. The group we spoke to felt that their parents were not like the ‘cool’ Colombo folk who gave their children ample freedom to engage in youth activities and social work. However, most of the youth were rational, citing the pros and cons of their parents’ reasoning, but they wished that they had less restrictions on socialising.

Another problem that arose was on the topic of education. Like youth from most other places, the youth from Galle too felt that the education system does not allow them the best of opportunities to showcase their talents. They felt the current education system only made them ‘bookish’ and did not allow them the chance to engage in the sporting activities they are otherwise good at. We found that this is the same story everywhere. When the child comes to higher levels of education in school the parents want their children to prioritise on their education, keeping all other extra-curricular activities at bay.

Of course, the guys felt that they couldn’t talk to the girls and that they were shy; but that was besides the point during the interactive session we had with these energetic youth.

The Galle Literary Festival will be held from the 18th to the 22nd of January 2012 and beyond Borders will be performing on the 20th and 21st of January.

Bhagya Senaratne

Bhagya is a board member of Beyond Borders. She is currently reading for her MA in International Relations and she’s our mole in the government. She blogs here. Her opinions are her own.

 

Day: Four

This image is free of copyrights. Feel free to use this image to raise awareness about gender based violence.

Day Four features a photograph by Rushda Mohinudeen.

Each year young women and even younger girls from distant villages are coaxed to Colombo with false promises of well paying jobs. When they reach Colombo however, they’re are forced into the sex worker trade.

It’s involuntary. It’s illegal. It’s against fundamental human rights.

Watch this blog for the next 12 days. We’ll be posting a featured photograph each day till 10 December as part of WMC campaign against GBV.

For more information about this campaign click here

Rushda Mohinudeen is a member of the steering committee of Beyond Borders. She heads ReachOut (a women’s rights group), works at an advertising agency and enjoys calling people koonjis. More of her photography can be found here.

Scripted Perversion- A Victim’s Tale

Several months back, I was asked by a few friends to come be a part of a network of young girls (and then some guys joined too!) who were working towards creating a safer space for women in Sri Lanka. Their initial work started in Colombo.

As part of ‘reaching out’ to society, the Reach Out bunch decided on using types of theater; and disruptive theater was singled out as one of the means to address this issue. We decided on having sessions of disruptive theater in the random bus on different bus routes, so that we spread the word to a variety of people commuting in public buses.

We also decided, disruptive theater in buses alone won’t help. Public spaces where youth and women visit and spend time at were deemed equally important. This is where I was came into volunteer and be a subject of a scripted ‘perversion’.

The actors were to go to Majestic City (MC) and act out a scene of guys perving and annoying a lone girl walking and window shopping. Two friends were to follow and randomly cat-call. Their basic motive was to be that of a normal pervert and annoy me. The experience was baffling, especially when I went up to people to ask for their help! Most of them just turned and walked away, leaving the victim (me) in distress! Alternatively, when I approached a lone guy whom I was randomly passing to help me, he actually stopped to help. He didn’t say a single word, but he made sure to stand by till the two ‘stalkers’ went. I thanked him, because I did not expect him to help me as none of the others did so when previously approached.

I suppose I can easily say that I am generally a ‘perv-magnet’. I attract all the wrong attention and get perved on quite often, be it touching, squeezing, rubbing on etc. on a normal day-to-day basis. So for me to actually go to a public space and act out reality had be on my nerves with something bordering on paranoia! I was skeptic and I was practically refusing to go up to strangers to ask for help. But the two other ‘support’ friends that were there, insisted that it needs to be done, at least for the project’s sake. From this ‘experiment’ I realised my basic notion of other people not wanting to meddle in another’s worries was correct. Then again I also came to realise, that not everyone is like that, and there is the odd person in society who will go out of his way to help someone in distress.

Thanks to this lovely project, my perceptions on people changed a bit and kudos to Shiffani and Rushda for giving me this opportunity and to Himal and Naveen the two professional perverts!

You can access the Reach Out blog for more information on the project and also on the Beyond Borders site.

-Bhagya Senaratne

Bhagya is a long standing (in every sense of term) board member of Beyond Borders. She is currently reading for her MA in International Relations and she’s our mole in the government. She blogs here. Her opinions are her own.

Charles Nigel de Silva – Supporter, mentor, friend.

Beyond Borders is deeply saddened by the death of Nigel de Silva – a close friend of Beyond Borders and personal friend to many at BB.

Nigel came into the world of Beyond Borders shortly after the inception of BB, as a facilitator, a resource-person and mentor, and a valuable asset to the HIV/AIDS related programmes of BB. He was always full of advise and insights, and had a knack for clicking with young people – the key audience of BB.

His work was at his heart, and Nigel won the hearts of many who had the privilege of working alongside him. His sharp wit meant that work that would otherwise be tiresome and grueling would be rendered into a fun exercise – and he manged to leave a lasting impression on every single person who listened to him speak passionately and emotively.

But the magic of Nigel was off the field of work.

Nigel became a close friend to many at Beyond Borders. A much loved persona who entered – and forever stayed – in our hearts.

Nigel will remain in the thoughts of all BB-ites and will be deeply missed – as a partner of BB, as a supporter, an advisor, a mentor, but mostly as a loved friend. May he rest in peace.