Investing in Sri Lanka’s youth has been noted as being important for the future of the country.
Globally, Sri Lanka has played a leading role in advocating for youth participation and decision-making. In 2014, the World Conference on Youth was hosted in Colombo, resulting in the commemoration of World Youth Skills Day on 15 July, every year. More recently, young Sri Lankan, Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayaka, was appointed as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth.
New technology innovations and increasing accessibility and use of digital and online media among youth have led to the rise of community-driven journalism, a form of storytelling using alternative media that is more relevant and consequential to people and communities.
In an effort to promote youth participation in community development, the Sri Lanka Development Journalist Forum (SDJF) in partnership with the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) in Sri Lanka, ceremoniously launched www.iVoice.lk
iVoice is a tri-lingual online platform for youth to discuss social issues and to drive innovative solutions, with a focus on women, youth, elderly, and the community. The platform will also enable young people to play an active role in community-driven solutions in Sri Lanka, taking forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Speaking at the event, the Chief Guest, Deputy Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs, Hon. Harsha de Silva said, “Youth must play an active role in fostering inclusive and peaceful communities. Youth drive innovation and are the building blocks of society. This project is an example of the importance of investing in Sri Lanka’s youth towards a better nation.”
Chairperson of SDJF, Prof. Wanigasundera spoke on the role of iVoice in community development, saying, “Being a digitally driven alternative community media tool, iVoice is a unique platform that has enormous potential for young people to express themselves creatively, tell their stories, and address issues, impacting them, as well as their communities in an inclusive manner that fosters locally-driven solutions.”
The partnership between SDJF-UNPFA aims to facilitate increased engagement with youth and communities of Sri Lanka to increase the use of development journalism and youth participation in addressing social issues and finding innovative solutions.
Recognizing the importance of this partnership, UNFPA Representative in Sri Lanka, Ritsu Nacken, said, “When youth are empowered and given the right opportunities, they become effective drivers of change. This is why UNFPA partners with young people, helping them to participate in decision-making and creating a space for them to take forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
At the event, an interactive tri-lingual discussion titled, ‘How can social media helps us build a better Sri Lanka?’ also took place. The discussion featured three prominent social media influencers from the English, Sinhala and Tamil social media sphere: Himal Kotalawela, Ms. Nadie Wasalamudaliarachchi, and Gopiharan Perinpam.
Over 100 youth from Colombo, Jaffna, Galle, Kalmunai, and other districts around the island, actively participated in the event.