International Youth Day tomorrow : Be engaged, empowered and activated | Sunday Observer

International Youth Day tomorrow : Be engaged, empowered and activated

“Your life, time and brain should belong to you, not to an institution.” — Grace Lwellyn

With International Youth Day just a day away, the Youth Observer spoke to youth involved in different areas of development on social aspects in the country. As there are many ongoing issues for youth in Sri Lanka and globally, we hope are interviewees will enlighten you.

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Treshan Weerasooriya Pereira

Finance Professional, Entrepreneur, Nature Lover, Traveller and Fashion Enthusiast

The struggle

I feel that there is no proper guidance for the youth of Sri Lanka.

May it be social, cultural or political, or otherwise resulting in misguided youth losing their way and ending up with decisions they later regret.

This prevailing condition has resulted in our youth being stuck with qualifications, careers and even marriages that are not for them and end up becoming rather bitter human beings.

World leaders

World leaders should look at ways in which the youth could be engaged, empowered and activated through social, political and cultural related programs that would encourage them to play a vital role in decision making.

Politics and society

Youth are often seen as passive beneficiaries as opposed to active leaders in the global arena. However, youth are heavily engaged in political, social-cultural and civic issues than ever before and are concerned about adverse factors that affect communities. I feel if our leaders should form groups comprising intellectual and driven youth, and have brainstorming sessions on pressing issues, important issues could be addressed and important points could be looked at from which the country as a whole could benefit.

A person of influence

I want a better tomorrow of course! I want inner peace, more tolerance and more importance given to cultural values, of course, keeping up with modern trends.

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Sonali Silva

Sonali is one of 25 young leaders selected for ‘She Decides’, a representative for sexual reproductive health and rights issues and a model. Here’s her opinion on the youth of today.

The struggle

As a young person in Sri Lanka, what I can say from personal experience is that many of our systems, whether its education or health are not centred on equity. These systems resist rolling with the times and adapting to new needs. For example, the education, system does not empower young people to be savvy with finances, know how to prevent pregnancy, or know how to manage their mental health.

Similarly, our healthcare system is not youth-friendly, generally sorting women at the door into married and unmarried.

Sri Lanka does not have mandatory, comprehensive sex education so a lot of young people are not empowered to make informed decisions about their bodies.

There is a disconnect between systems that adhere to tradition and the real-time needs of young people.

Sri Lankan youth also struggle with social mobility. Experience and opportunities available for someone in Colombo are very different to, (say), someone in Moneragala or Vavuniya. This again rings back to not having systems that centre around equity.

It’s great that we have free education and free healthcare. We need it to be equitable and on par with other nations in terms of quality, so we can give Sri Lankan youth a fitting chance.

World leaders

Let’s start with national leaders. National leaders can advocate for meaningful youth participation in policy making. They can start valuing experience over expertise.

Politics and society

I think young people feel disengaged when it comes to policy making. Not just with policy making but in many other aspects of our lives we don’t have the chance to make decisions by ourselves. We are often told “It’s not your place”, “You are too young” and “This is not for children.” My advice, learn from experts, be open to making mistakes and being corrected, but value your knowledge, the experience you gain, what you have to say and be brave enough to say it.

As a person of influence

As a young person in Sri Lanka, I would want the same chances to be available to all young people, regardless of where you come from or who your father is.

As a young woman in Sri Lanka, I want to be able to move in public spaces without the fear of impending sexual harassment, be considered equally for work and have full autonomy over my body and life.

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Parami Fernando

Head of Media & Communications Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, youth activist and avid traveller who loves to travel solo.

The struggle

Proper career guidance after school is needed. Not many youth in Sri Lanka are exposed to the opportunities the country has to offer, be it academic courses, vocational training, internships, part-time or full-time employment. Also, creating equal access to opportunities is very important.

World leaders

Provide youth with more opportunities and responsibility without neglecting them. They are too young for any job.

Politics and society

Not many youth find this topic very appealing due to different unpleasant reasons. Many seem disheartened and discouraged, but it’s highly important to be politically and socially aware as we are responsible for the future of the country, what’s happening to the country and mainly electing the leaders who can lead a nation competently.

It’s refreshing to see that there is a positive movement in recent times among youth in Sri Lanka to be more politically and socially aware of what’s happening in the country.

As a person of influence

More opportunities locally and globally to take the country’s flag high and competent/good leaders to look up to and take inspiration from, so as to shape our lives.

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Joel Outschoorn

Marketer and Media Personality

The struggle

Youth are highly connected and informed. It is a daily struggle to increase one’s popularity in terms of likes and followers. However, the question is such, are these handsome and pretty faces behind the camera lens happy and living their life to the fullest?

Today the Youth of this country and around the world struggle to express – by what I mean is that they lack the relationship between the Father / Mother to reach out to. The youth struggle to express what they go through in life, to their parents and be able to open up.

World leaders

World leaders – have much to offer, but so very little has been done. Leave behind world leaders, reaching out to the leaders of our country I believe that they should lead by example.

They need to reach out to the youth in terms of encouraging youth-driven initiatives despite cultural, social and religious barriers.

Youth, after all, are the most powerful tool a nation could have to change things around and make it happen. Therefore world leaders need to look into collaborative initiatives to work together.

Politics and society

It is fundamental to be on TOP of the game, thanks to social media. It is agreed that most youth today are aware of their political surroundings. However, they need to be well versed and skilled politically and socially, that in this fast-moving world, one needs to think ‘out of the box’ and outperform to survive.

As a person of influence

In keeping with the global theme for International Youth Day – Transforming Education – I just hope that every person is respected and treated alike without considering his /her cultural, social or sexual orientation to start with, so that everyone feels respected and accepted for who they are. If this is practised the world will see a better place and youth will discover more potential within one’s self.

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Medonie Rajamoney

London Advanced Level Teacher, BTech Lecturer and Music Lover

The struggle

Currently, youth in Sri Lanka struggle with a handful of difficulties. While asserting the issues, most of them are influenced or illustrated by the society we live in. Gender biases and stereotyping behaviour still prevail in our society and those are stumbling stones for a youth’s progression. Especially when women try to excel, the race is more competitive and challenging, compared to men. This ideology prevents youth in Sri Lanka from succeeding in their personal and social lives. In addition, external environment factors such as political instability and attitudinal change, also affect the well-being of Sri Lankan youth.

World leaders

There are a few world leaders who can be perceived as role models for our youth. I read up and follow on business leaders more than political leaders, so if I have to name a few effective leaders it would Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos. These entrepreneurs were able to succeed because they possess traits such as self-confidence, creativity and resilience. These leaders have reached their potential because they had the self-determination to fight back when they faced pitfalls. Today’s youth should follow their footsteps to pave way for success.

Politics and society

It is very important to be politically and socially aware, especially for our youth, because they are going to be future leaders. Most of our youth take a back seat when a political discussion is initiated. This is not healthy. Youth should take a proper stand and get themselves updated regarding political and social affairs essential for our country’s future.

As a person of influence

Well, I’m engaged in a profession which moulds individuals into responsible citizens. Most of youth have a pessimistic view towards the future. As a result, youth have a minimal level of patriotism inculcated in them. That mentality should change. I strongly believe that proper education is the key to initiate patriotism in youth. Appropriate changes should be made to the educational system of our country, which will enable our youth to succeed in style.

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