Being a Girl Guide who loved hiking, putting up tents under the open sky, and singing by the campfire, little did Chamathya Fernando know that she would go to become the youngest World Board member at the age of 25 in the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). WAGGGS being the largest [...]


Chamathya makes it big on global Girl Guides stage


Being a Girl Guide who loved hiking, putting up tents under the open sky, and singing by the campfire, little did Chamathya Fernando know that she would go to become the youngest World Board member at the age of 25 in the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS).

WAGGGS World Board, World Bureau London, UK (Chamathya first from right)

WAGGGS being the largest global voluntary organisation for girls and young women, with a membership of 10 million in 150-member countries, Chamathya was appointed to the World Board, the highest decision-making body of WAGGGS on September 17 this year. She attended her first World Board meeting at the World Bureau in London.

With the responsibility of being an official representative of the 10 million members, assisting in making policies, strategies and decisions for the future, towards the betterment of the organization, Chamathya says that her appointment to WAGGGS, a movement that supports young women and girls to develop their full potential as leaders and active citizens of the world, is an opportunity to take what she has been doing at national and regional level to a global level. The Guide movement is over 100 years old.

Upon receiving the highest award in Girl Guiding as a President’s Guide in 2010, Chamathya has continued to volunteer with Sri Lanka Girl Guides Association (SLGGA) and was chosen as a youth delegate to represent WAGGGS at several United Nations Conferences. While in New York back in 2013 the youth delegates including Chamathya were trained in a global advocacy campaign ‘Stop the Violence.’

On their return home the delegates went on to implement their own campaigns to educate young girls and boys on issues of violence. Chamathya initiated the local ‘Stop The Violence’ campaign, travelling across the country to raise awareness, age appropriately, upon the issues of sexual harassment in public spaces, domestic violence, child abuse, sexual molestation and much more.

“We heard shocking stories of abuse from rural areas like Kekirawa and Batticaloa, from girls whose mothers are employed as housemaids in Middle East. Those girls are abandoned, neglected and incidents of incest were reported,” relates Chamathya further adding that the campaign also emphasises the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality. Chamathya was assisted by her co- SLGGA team of Dasuni Athauda, Kenneth Amunugama, Anuradha Uswattage, Venuri Kalinga and Dumidu Thabrew.

Chamathya Fernando

Impressed by the progress of Sri Lankan ‘Stop the Violence’ campaign, WAGGGS invited Chamathya and her team to train 66 adult leaders of the Bangladesh Girl Guides Association. The ‘Stop the Violence’ campaign and ‘Voices against Violence’ education curriculum co- developed by WAGGGS and UN Women were introduced to Bangladesh in January this year, a country facing the troubling issues of child marriages, teen pregnancies, and harmful practices. “We cannot compare the situations in each country. We cannot say that Sri Lanka is better off than other countries in South Asia, because even one case of violence is a big issue. We should encourage the complete elimination of violence, not less violence,” Chamathya stresses.

Her voluntary duties with WAGGGS continued when Plan International, a humanitarian organization that advances children’s rights and equality for girls, selected Chamathya as one of the nine Young Global Influencers. She and other Young Global Influencers co-designed the #GirlsGetEqual global campaign, launched on the International Day of the Girl Child on October 11 in Brussels, Belgium. The campaign focused on girls’ leadership, power and youth activism for gender equality and specifically focused on girls because they face double discrimination due to their gender and age. “It also addressed representation of girls and portrayal of harmful gender stereotypes in mainstream media,” Chamathya said, thankful for the opportunity to work with other young influencers and activists from Senegal, Uganda, Australia, USA, Bangladesh, Ecuador, El Salvador and Kenya.

The US State Department’s Global Emerging Young Leaders Award and Exchange Program was undoubtedly was a milestone in Chamathya’s life. She was recognized as a youth working on social causes by the US Embassy in Sri Lanka and nominated for the US Department of State programme. “Running the ‘Stop the Violence’ campaign with many other projects for a long time putting my time and effort as a volunteer is the reason I was nominated for the award and then chosen,” Chamathya says. She was recognised as a Global Emerging Young Leader in May 2017 at Washington, DC with nine other recipients of the award from Vietnam, Belgium, Afghanistan, Algeria, Peru, Malta, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Jerusalem.

During the exchange programme that followed, the highlight of the journey for Chamathya was the graffiti park in Austin, Texas. “I got to do some graffiti on walls with spray cans, which was a thrilling experience,” Chamathya fondly recalls.

A graduate from the Plymouth University UK, affiliated to the National School of Business Management (NSBM) and University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Chamathya is currently employed at Brandix.

With her latest appointment to the WAGGGS World Board Chamathya is looking forward to working for and with girls and young women around the world. “Now my responsibilities are at a global level and at the end of the day I’m satisfied with the work we do, which really has an impact to change someone else’s life in a better way. I live by the Girl Guides motto ‘Be Prepared’ to face whatever challenges that come my way,” she says with confidence.

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