“One little step, a huge impact, lifetime legacy”, were the words of Leymah Gbowee; that struck the Sri Lankan Girl Guide representatives who attended the Young Women’s World Forum 2010 (YWWF). Leymah is an African peace activist who lead a peace movement that brought the second Liberian civil war to an end in 2003. She was also one of the eminent speakers at the YWWF 2010.
Representing Sri Lanka at the event was Prarthana Liyanage (23) a past pupil of Methodist College and currently a young member of the National Executive Committee, youth communication and equipment committee. Uthpala Dinithi Jayasekera (25) a past pupil of Museus College; who is currently studying civil engineering, also represented Sri Lanka at the conference along with Prarthana. Held in October the conference was one of the major events organised for the commemoration of 100 years of Girl Guiding and Scouting.
The grand scale event was centre around three MDGs that will continue to be the heart of focus for girl guides and scouts for the next two years, says Prarthana. “The MGDs goals we discussed were gender equality, environment sustainability and poverty.
The main focus at the event was the making of the declaration which is of 12 statements for the world to follow”, shares Prarthana. Describing the event she goes on to say that guides and scouts from 90 countries attended the event held in Oxfordshire UK, bringing the total number of participants to over 140.
The girls were divided into groups, each of which included representatives from each of the five regions. Within the groups they discussed national issues, they were able to learn from each other and helped identify problems and find possible solutions. “The main focus of the event was wthe declaration which was compiled and voted on at the conference” she elaborates, “the declarations is made up of 12 statements that the girl guides and scouts across the world will follow for the next three years”.
Having been given the opportunity for an exclusive meeting with Leymah, Uthpala was one of five girls selected. “It was a great experience, we learnt so much from Leymah”, expresses Uthpala. “She also knew about the war in Sri Lanka and she was in the country back in 2008. She had so much to share, that it would be ideal if we could invite her to Sri Lanka to speak to us because she has an incredible ability to encourage and empower”.
From the research they conducted and what they were able to identify at the conference, Prarthana and Uthpala agree that while Sri Lanka isn’t one of the countries that’s worse off, the nation isn’t leading either. Elaborating on this Prarthana says “for instance, in terms of gender equality, we have the rights; such as the right to education but women are not utilizing that right. So the problem for Sri Lanka is that women have to be empowered and encouraged. We have women studying in universities but they do not pursue careers. Female representation in parliament is also very low. We must therefore encourage women to study and enter politics so that women’s issues can be advocated”.
Along with the conference sessions of ice breakers, cultural events and an excursion of Oxford city as well as the university was organised for the participants. “It was a great life time experience,” says Prarthana, “we learnt a lot from each other, and having met people from so many different countries and islands we are now better connected.” Both representatives thanked the Sri Lanka Girl Guide Association (SLGGA) for giving them the opportunity to represent the association at YWWF 2010. They were also appreciative of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts for selecting them and for all the support extended.
Pix by Saman Kariyawasam