Youth to the fore! | Sunday Observer

Youth to the fore!

The Vision of a country lies in the hands of its Youth who have tremendous potential and towering ambitions. The determination, energy, desire, motivation they posses can either make or break a nation. Thus, the involvement of Youth in developing a nation is crucial. Every year it is part of the United Nations (UN) mechanism to encourage and to include young people into decision making process. This year more than 30 countries included youth delegates as part of their official delegation. Sheshadri Kottearachchi was one of the UN Youth delegates who represented Sri Lanka at the UN General Assembly held in New York who has been involved in community building and volunteering with both local and international organisations ever since she decided that it is one of the best ways to help her own country and the community. So we thought of putting a chat with her to know more about the importance of inclusion of the Youth in decision making of a country and also of her experience at the UN General Assembly.


Q: You are one of the luckiest people to have represented the country as a Youth Delegate at the recently held UN General Assembly. How would you describe that experience?

It was an amazing experience to have represented the country and sharing ideas with other youth delegates.

During the period we were given the opportunity to deliver the youth statement. The youth statement is what governments have done for the past year/specific year to help young people in the country. And also to identify areas which needs development.

So this year Shehan Kannangara and me presented the youth statement for Sri Lanka.

Q: What kind of areas does the youth statement usually cover?

It covers almost all the issues a country faces or might face. It could be gender biases, education, drug addiction, disparities within communities and how we are looking forward to change. Both of us had two different areas.

Shehan spoke mainly about the National Youth Society and I spoke of creating awareness, new opportunities for young people.

Q: Sustainable Development plays a major part in any country. How would you describe the importance of it especially in our country?

Both the General Assembly and UN work towards achieving sustainable development. It is actually really important. Although we are not that much aware of it Sri Lanka is one of the very few countries which has a ministry for SDG’s (Sustainable Development Goals) and we are also pushing ourselves forward and doing pretty well in comparison to other countries. But it is also a way of promoting a better understanding of the country or communities.

Q: As a Youth delegate, in your opinion, what are our drawbacks as a country?

Sheshadri Kottearachchi

I genuinely feel that we work really hard and we have a lot of young and talented people but a very few opportunities. One thing I realised is that Sri Lankan youth are easily disheartened. There is this notion in their head that If we do not have these kind of specific things then we cannot move forward. That mentality is cultivated with the things happening in the country. No one stepsback to think how this will affect my personality my professional life. I am really trying to create awareness of that.

Yes, we do have a lack of opportunities but we as Sri Lankans, have less opportunities and therefore we work twice as hard towards our goals. That is a very good thing. Whereas in other countries they have ample opportunities. But only a very few are interested.

Q: Tell us about why you wanted to choose this path and how you worked towards where you are today?

I have always wanted to help people. And then this avenue opened up to me which was the chance to study International Relations at University. I realised by doing community service and being a good citizen I can still help people. I was heavily involved in debating and with the UN from my school days because I always wanted to volunteer and help people.

I did pretty much everything. For example I did public speaking, debating, drama and took part in sports too. It helps in building someone’s personality in a great way. Also I used to be a good reader. ‘Obsessive reading’ would be the correct term.

It was partly a reason for me to have a better understanding of things. When you read a book it is more substantial. I did a lot of volunteering also constantly wanted to do the exams or courses to help me to reach where I want to be. I was always curious to know how the system actually works. I realised that this is the only and the best way to learn being a student.

Q: How helpful was the education you received from both local and private universities? How would you describe that experience?

I studied in local and private universities. I did my B.A (Special) Degree in English at Kelaniya and International Relations Degree at a private university. I understood more about the community, cultural reality, and youth issues. Especially about the lack of job security.

I feel that we must make the kids aware of what they will have to face in future. Soft skill development is a must. From the new budget they have allocated a considerable amount of money, which is a really great thing.

Sri Lanka is developing gradually, however, issues like creating awareness on climate change, education and mental health needs improvement. The entrepreneurship culture which is happening in cities as well as in rural areas is a very good sign.

Q: What message would you like to convey to the Young generation of the country who are willing to make a difference and to help the country?

It is important that we acknowledge that we are in the post reconciliation period and secondly we need to grow from that. We have a greater responsibility to fill the gap between the communities. Be more understanding. Just be kind.

That is really lacking and without that as a young generation we cannot move forward, because the older generation has done what they can.

It’s now our turn to socially influence, people. We have new ideas and we have the energy to move forward.

So something I always advocate is that you must try to think of new ways to improve yourself and thereby you can help your community. Have confidence in things you do and always have a broad mind.