Being the change
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." – Margaret Mead.
Moving towards bringing about change in their communities, this is exactly what a certain group of young people are attempting to do. Stimulating thought and action amongst fellow young people, this entity is attempting to make Sri Lankan youth proactive and sensitive to issues related to them, in society.
The Sri Lanka Youth Parliament (SLYP) is a youth-led, youth-run initiative, whose aim is to mobilize and create a network of young people to bring about positive and sustainable change to issues that affect youth and their communities in Sri Lanka. Coming under the youth empowerment division of the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BCIS), the vision of the SLYP is "Youth creating a cohesive Sri Lanka."
The first sitting of the SLYP 2005 took place in August 2005 at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall, and was hosted by the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BCIS). The Late Lakshman Kadirgamar was one individual who backed this initative wholeheartedly.
And now, a second sitting of the SLYP is being planned, to further carry out the initiative begun in 2005. Titled SLYP 2008, a steering committee of nearly 20 people are involved in organizing the event, and the post-activities related to the sitting. The steering committee comprises three committees headed by three versatile young individuals. While the Program Committee is headed by Mohamed Hisham, the Media Committee is headed by Dhanushka Fernando and the Logistics Committee by Andi Schubert.
"The first sitting of the SLYP, consisted of sessions throughout five days. During these sessions, skills workshops on various areas related to social activism will be held. There were also cultural programmes and other team building exercises to strengthen relationships between the participants," said Dhanushka, adding that they hope to build on this for the second sitting.
According to him, the SLYP comprises young people from all over the country, creating a good mix between participants. "Among the many objectives of the SLYP, one main one is to enable young leaders to voice their opinions regarding youth issues, on a national level." As for the process of selection of members into the SLYP, the age group is 16-25, and applications are sent out to schools and universities, and so applications could be made.
"Applications are sent out to all districts from Jaffna to Galle, across ethnic and religious compositions. Applications have to be submitted in line with the essential criteria and applicants should submit a proposal stating the action areas they are interested in, action plans and so on. And based on this, we select 225 young people," he said. The aim of SLYP 2005 was to bring together the first generation of young community leaders to network, develop policy, acquire new skills and most importantly, implement actions for social change around the island for a period of two years, as a follow up to the event.
Once the selections are done, there is a regional meeting where the 225 participants are able to interact through various forms of orientation. A steering committee of about 10-15 members organise and ensure the smooth run of the SLYP.
According to Dhanushka, the SLYP has a number of action areas that have been identified and are dealt with, from which participants could select which areas they want to work on.
Each action area has a facilitator in charge, along with an assistant, and the 225 members are divided among these areas. Each facilitator will have Sinhalese and Tamil translators as well, in order to assist members. Ideas and initiatives to bring about positive change in their individual communities are then discussed within the group, with input from the other members contributing to enriching the action plans.
These sittings of the SLYP give the members a chance to interact with others and also participate in the different skills workshops, joint sittings and other activities. More information regarding SLYP can be found by visiting the website for Sri Lankan Youth Parliament at http://www.bcis.edu.lk/slyp/SLYP2005/slyp2005.htm