For Dasuni Dinithika Jayawickrama, little did she know when singing, dancing, compeering and acting on stage at the school’s talent show as head prefect, that it would be a catalyst for her succeeding as an international winner in the Young Women in Public Affairs (YWPA) Awards 2018. YWPA Awards is one of the service programmes [...]


YWPA Awards: Creating a platform to strengthen youth leadership


For Dasuni Dinithika Jayawickrama, little did she know when singing, dancing, compeering and acting on stage at the school’s talent show as head prefect, that it would be a catalyst for her succeeding as an international winner in the Young Women in Public Affairs (YWPA) Awards 2018.

Dasuni was adjudged the district winner as well as a YWPA international winner. Pix by M. A. Pushpa Kumara

YWPA Awards is one of the service programmes of the Zonta International Foundation, dedicated to empower women while working towards gender equality by building a just world for women and girls. Each year, the award recognizes young girls from all around the world, between the age of 16-19 who demonstrate superior leadership skills, commitment to public services and civil causes to create a difference in their communities through voluntary services.

This year, Zonta Clubs I-IV of Colombo joined hands and called up applications in January for YWPA Awards 2018. A special committee of judges reviewed the applications received from the contestants of Musaeus College, Sujatha Vidyalaya, Bishop’s College, Gateway College, Colombo International School and Asian International School. The four applications were submitted to the Zonta International district evaluation committee.

District 25 comprises of Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh and Nepal, where each country submitted their applicants. Dasuni was the winner of District 25 and given the opportunity to be selected to the Zonta International’s YWPA committee, as the committee reviewed the 32 awardees from the 32 districts worldwide and selected the ten most outstanding applicants as the international awardees for 2018.

Dasuni, the school captain for 2016/17 of Museaus College, Colombo, became the district and one of the YWPA international winners. Dasuni had 55 senior and 36 junior prefects under her wing. As a part of the annual community service project anchored by the prefects’ guild, in Dasuni’s year, she organized a prefects’ talent show, identifying the unique talents of her team. The concert ended up raising a total fund above Rs.300,000 in aid of Apeksha Hospital, Maharagama. Then, she reached out to the school’s Board of Trustees and other companies for financial support, hence increasing the sum to Rs.1.2 million to purchase three infusion pumps, four syringe pumps, an emergency trolley, cardiac monitors and a sucker machine to improve the patient care facilities of Apeksha Hospital.

At the YWPA Award ceremony held recently at the Excel World, Colombo, Dasuni spoke about her inspirational journey as a student leader and what the award truly meant to her.

“The YWPA award represents recognition for young girls like myself and for society it is a reminder of a need to change perceptions about girls. There are many girls in Sri Lanka with alot of potential, yet zero opportunities and recognition to come out and pursue their dreams. Social perceptions attached with women deeming them less capable, less intelligent, need to change,” Dasuni noted.

Learning important lessons of being an approachable leader, respected, yet not feared, qualities of punctuality, perfection, discipline are some of the take-aways from Dasuni’s journeyas a young leader.

Shahnaz Nathani, Governor of District 25, addressed the audience saying “Zonta International Foundation celebrates its 100th anniversary next year. With over a 25,000 membership in 63 countries,” she said adding that the organisation works towards to improve the lives of women and girls through service and advocacy programmes.”

The YWPA Awards provide a platform for young teenagers to evaluate their own leadership strengths. The selection process of the winners is through a simple set of questions which touch on activities and leadership skills related to school, voluntary and community service projects outside school, participation in international programmes and ample awareness of the status of women in the country.

The panel of judges included Jerome Rajendram, former district chairman of Rotary Club, Prof. Sharaine Fernando, University of Sri Jayewardenepura and Indrani Sugathadasa, former chairperson of Insurance Commission of Sri Lanka.

“When reviewing the applications we mostly evaluated how each candidate responded to the questions and how well they presented the answers,” Indrani Sugathadasa said.

Winners from Zonta Clubs I,II and III of Colombo

Nethmi Oshadi Gunasekara - a grade 12 student of Asian International School, Nethmi is a creative soul dreaming to persue a higher education in designing and performing arts. She is an active member of the school’s community service club and part of a start up creation company set to empower women by teaching craft skills and marketing their products.

Danya Eshana Amarasinghe - a Grade 11 student of Colombo International School, Danya wishes to pursue further studies in Economics and International Relations becoming an advocate for the empowerment of women and equal rights for all.

Kavindi Chamathka Jayasekara - a head prefect of Musaeus College for 2017/18 she has led many community development projects as a visionary leader.


Kavindi receiving her award

Danya receiving her award

Nethmi receiving her award

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