Feb 07 2017. view 303
Today on the Buzz, I speak to the team who has made SLU possible for the past few years and it has groomed many young leaders of this country to think of a reconciled country, so today I catch up with the founder Prashan De Visser and the team to speak about the vision and the achievement of SLU.
What is SLU?
Sri Lanka Unites is a youth movement for hope and reconciliation that has been active in every district and region of Sri Lanka for the past decade. The movement has steadily grown in numbers and continues to embark on a journey towards authentic and sustainable reconciliation. We are committed to pursue an inclusive Sri Lankan identity by promoting reconciliation, justice and equality.
Ever since the dawn of independence in our nation in 1948, Sri Lanka entered a vicious cycle of violence in ethnic, political and socio-economic aspects. It has been jarring to see the paradox of freedom causing the nation to fall back into the bondage of internal conflict.
There has also been a constant in all the violence that has sprung forth in the past years, which is the presence of young people who have been manipulated meticulously enough to be the very heart and cause of the conflicts that have taken place.
Sri Lanka Unites believes that this vicious cycle of violence will not stop unless there is proactive engagement in the cause of prevention of future conflict in the nation, by the younger generation.
Sri Lanka Unites not only helps and inspires the youth of the country to be agents of non-violence and reconciliation, but also gives them the capacity to have stronger resistance against hate speech and any violent extremism.
What have you accomplished thus far?
Sri Lanka Unites has six reconciliation centers in Colombo, Matara, Mullaitivu, Kalmunai, Monaragala and very soon, Nuwara Eliya. Our vision through these centers is to be tangibly present in every district and be a hub for education, entrepreneurship and inspire youth to play an active role in promoting reconciliation and countering violent extremism.
Sri Lanka Unites initiatives takes place all year long and culminate at the annual Future Leaders’ Conference that provides leadership training and empowers student leaders from every district, ethnicity and religion, to be ambassadors of reconciliation. Over 3000 student leaders from every district have attended these conferences over the past eight years.
The S.H.O.W. You Care campaign, an acronym for Stop Harassment Of Women, promoting the importance of respecting the personal space of women in our society as well as speaking out against harassment, is also one of the initiatives of Sri Lanka Unites.
We are also spreading our vision and mission to diaspora chapters across the world and have seven diaspora chapters active in cities like Melbourne, London, Los Angeles, Toronto and Washington D.C.
Sri Lanka Unites as a movement has now inspired the creation on an international movement for youth led conflict transformation, “ Global Unites “. Today Global Unites is engaged in seven countries impacted by violence conflict.
Outstanding Role Model Award
As we celebrate and reflect after 10 years as a movement, we wanted to introduce a new initiative of celebrating and recognizing Role Models. In an era where positive role models are hard to come by these Individuals are truly worthy of being emulated. Their lives are inspiring and we want the nation’s youth to know they values, their principals, their insights and their work for the betterment of our nation. It is because of their work and the foundation they have laid, that our work is possible. They blazed a trail, inspired hope within a new generation to now step up and transform this nation.
Names and Designations:
Amb. Jayantha Dhanapala - Former UN Under Secretary General For Disarmament
Mrs. Visaka Dharmadasa - Chair, Association of War Affected Women
Mr. Kushil Gunasekera - Founder, Foundation of Goodness
Dr. Selvy Thiruchandran - Trustee and Board Member, Women’s Education and Research Centre (WERC)
Tony Senewiratne - Former National Director, Habitat for Humanity
Deshabandu Jezima Ismail - Founder of the Muslim Women’s Research and Action Forum (MWRAF)
Mrs. Manouri Muttetuwegama - Chairperson, Consultation Task Force for Reconciliation Mechanisms
Ms. Sulochana Ragunathan - Former Director, Jaffna Public Library
Mr. Chandra Jayaratne - Former Chairman, Chamber of Commerce
What's going to be the journey ahead?
We are committed to see this nation transformed by youth. Therefore we look to expand our influence on the younger generation across Sri Lanka. The first 10 years were about setting a foundation for the movement and making networking and building relationship across the country. The next 10 years is about expanding our influence. We consistently ask ourselves the questions, is Sri Lanka free from the possibility of youth being manipulated towards another violent outbreak? Are grievances been heard and is non-violent pursued of grievances being taught to every youth across this nation? If the answer is even remotely “no” we have work to do. We strive harder each day of each New Year until the day each Sri Lankan without any fear or reservation can say
"I am proud to be Sri Lankan, I feel I belong and I am an equal citizen in this nation"
"I believe I am not judged by my ethnicity, religion, caste, socio economic status, gender or region, rather I am judged by the content of my character"
"We embrace our diversity and consider supporting the aspirations and addressing the grievances of all our people a privileged and a collective journey."
We have a long way to go until these dreams can become reality.
It may sound like an improbable journey, but we are committed to go the distance. Through our experience of working with Sri Lankan youth from across this nation for a decade, we are more convinced than ever, that it is indeed possible.
We believe the journey has just begun, we have much to do and we are standing here willing to serve. We are active in every province of our nation and we are committed to make a lasting positive change in our beloved Sri Lanka.
We believe that the BEST IS YET TO COME!