Youth-led Advocacy Initiatives Creating Communal Harmony and Positive Changes

There are various instances in Sri Lanka’s history when tensions between ethnicities have resulted in turbulence and bloodshed. Over the years, instances such as the insurgencies, three decades of armed conflict and the Easter attacks last year increased distrust and disharmony among ethnicities. Politicians take advantage of ethnic divisions for their political objectives which causes further fragmentation of society. While there are laws and citizens' rights promoting ethnic harmony, there remain structural social injustices which people don’t know how to counter.

USAID SCORE, implemented by Global Communities, launched ‘Peace Incubators’ for youth between the ages of 16 – 35 years old belonging to different ethnicities and religions in Jaffna and Kandy Districts. This activity is implemented by the local partner, International Youth Alliance for Peace (IYAP).

The youth are learning to advocate for social cohesion and reconciliation. ‘Peace Incubators’ is empowering the youth with knowledge and skills to research societal issues and advocate to solve the identified issues. The youth are learning about laws and citizens’ rights such as the Right to Information (RTI) Act and its provisions supported by the RTI Commission. The youth will then share with their peers in their youth clubs how to advocate and create positive change in their communities.

On August 29 – 31, 2020, IYAP initiated ‘Peace Incubators’ by training 12 youths from the Tamil-majority Jaffna District on digital storytelling using video broadcasting platforms and technologies to deliver positive inclusive messages. They learned to develop stories, interview, sound recording, shooting videos and editing. Twelve Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim youths from Kandy District in central Sri Lanka will join the Jaffna youth to be trained in digital storytelling and all will learn to advocate. Each youth will then share their knowledge with 10 -12 youths from their communities resulting in 120 youths conducting initiatives to promote social cohesion and reconciliation.

At the end of the IYAP activity, 10 Facebook/YouTube video clips will be posted on the youth activities and advocacy efforts on IYAP social media platforms.

As a result of IYPA activities, over 120 youths will gain confidence and agency through the opportunity to exercise leadership in promoting responsible citizenship, and learning to advocate for their communities. The youth clubs will also be stronger and more cohesive.

Region: Asia, Sri Lanka
Area of expertise: Peacebuilding, Youth