Our Perspective

Youth Leads #5 : Innovation through Simplicity

18 Jun 2015

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A month gone and a wealth of knowledge accumulated! Week 5 was by far the most inspiring thus far because we managed to meet many young and empowered, yet often unheard, youth. Of course, the highlight of our week was attending Dialog Ideamart’s IdeaBash 2015 held at the Dialog Future World (a big thank you to Shafraz for the invitation). What we saw at the event blew our minds and made all four of us truly appreciate the brilliance and unwavering potential of our Sri Lankan youth. As individuals employed in the development sector working on social innovation, being exposed to technological innovation was something relatively new to most of us but also something very intriguing because it introduced us to the concept of techno-social innovation- a practice that will undoubtedly fast track Sri Lanka to greater heights. We met young people who have developed entire systems that simplify the way in which offices function through just a few sensors that detect and regulate settings such as temperature and electricity usage– an initiative that would ultimately lead to more sustainable and eco-friendly spaces. Given UNDP’s recent commitment to greening initiatives and its focus on sustainability via solar power and net metering,  Read More

Youth Leads #4: There’s a buzz at the Youth Leads Head Quarters

11 Jun 2015

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The Youth Leads are now in the fourth week of their assignment, and the office has become a hive of activity, and it is finally my turn to blog on our busy yet insightful week! Our week was kick-started with a discussion with a leading Telecommunications Company in Sri Lanka, which has a strong focus on carrying forward the innovations agenda through technology-based innovations. The Youth Leads, having gone in with a clear agenda to integrate innovations in solving developmental issues, found the meeting to be refreshing and immensely motivating as the agendas of both entities fit like a hand and glove. Hopping from one exciting event to another seemed to be the theme of the week. The team got the opportunity to attend a Youth Mechanism meeting, a monthly meeting where youth focal points attached to all UN agencies gather. The guest speaker for the meeting chose an issue that was contentious and fragile in the present societal context – sexual abuse of youth in Sri Lanka. While the speaker provided much information, the discussion that ensued thereafter probably stole the limelight. Through this discussion it was evident that there is much left to do in terms of protecting youth  Read More

Consuming with care: The why and how

07 Jun 2015

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This year's World Environment Day theme urges global citizens to live with, and be happy with, less. Can we make it work? As Environment Day themes go, saving the oceans or the rainforests were easier, non-controversial and devoid of dilemma. No one contested their appropriateness and many championed their cause. Yes, oceans and rainforests are the last bastions of nature and certainly should be saved. There is an innate ambiguity underlined with economic confusion around this year’s theme for World Environment Day. Consume with care. Consume with responsibility. A deceptively simple and catchy theme that underscores a deep and fundamental chasm in our society. A dilemma that regularly pits growth-focused economists and GDP-obsessed politicians against those who believe in a different, softer, humanistic model of development. A model that upholds rights and capabilities (abilities) over income and purchasing power. A model that prescribes a different set of values to define human progress and well-being than those currently touted by the system that drives many of our economies. For years we were told that consuming more is the only way to make markets work and create jobs and keep the wheels of the economic machinery well oiled. This generation has grown up  Read More

Youth Leads #3: What a week!

04 Jun 2015

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Each week here at UNDP brings in something new and something totally unexpected. We started off the week with just the three of us, as Isuru was away in New York attending his graduation, and it was interesting to see how the absence of one teammate was akin to missing a vital organ! Nonetheless we powered through our meetings and events, trying to provide the innovation of four LEADS with just the three of us. One of the biggest events of the week was a panel discussion organized by the UNDP centered on the 19th Amendment. The events drew in a significant crowd (to nobody’s surprise) due to the contentious nature of the subject. Personally I feel that as a nation we achieved a significant milestone with the passing of the amendment. The promises of many previous presidents were finally delivered, and the hope of many Sri Lankans to abolish the executive presidency was realized. The Youth LEADS also had the privilege of becoming more familiar with the Youth Enterprise Development Program (YED) as well as the Youth Leadership Development Programme (YLD), both of which are part of the Governance for Local Economic Development (GLED) Project, falling under UNDP’s Governance for Empowerment  Read More

Youth Leads #2 : Up early and running!

21 May 2015

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Following an entire week of extensive induction and welcome, we were overjoyed to finally start working on the million ideas that kept running through our heads. It didn’t take too long for us to get settled in, because by Monday evening, Isuru was focused on an information sharing system to introduce the people behind the success of UNDP Sri Lanka to the world, where best practices can be shared and people can work out loud. Archana being Archana was busy coming up with revolutionary ideas ranging from developing a campaign aimed at breaking gender stereotypes to make use of conventional three-wheeler quotes to carry important messages, and Joanne was super excited about the project she has been entrusted with, targeting enhanced youth political awareness across the island while also helping the Policy unit with a workshop on the 19th Amendment to the constitution for the public. Meanwhile I was psyched with the walk for energy conversation by the Ministry of Power and Energy. The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) were phenomenal in assembling a volunteer force for the walk; with a team of 25 young volunteers guided by the UNV team and the youth leads, we began interviewing people to check their  Read More

Youth Leads #1 : Welcome, Youth Lead Headquarters!

14 May 2015

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Being selected as one of the four UN Youth Volunteers to be part of the UNDP Youth Leads programme is definitely one of the best news I have ever heard. While the opportunity to work for the UNDP is definitely something that would excite anyone, what truly excited me, as well as the rest of the team, was what our new assignment consisted of. It presented us with the opportunity to work with the UNDP and the clusters within it to come up with innovative initiatives and solutions that would benefit all Sri Lankans, especially our young peers. Basically, identify a problem, find an innovative solution and implement it. Quite the dream job, isn’t it? I went into work on May 5th, completely unaware of what to expect with the team. Most of my interaction with them had been really brief or through our incredibly advanced information sharing portal, Whatsapp. However, upon stepping into the YL HQ (what we like to call our work area) there was instant cohesion with each of us chucking ideas at one another like we had been working together for years. To say that we fit like a glove would be an understatement- I could not  Read More

UNLOCKED Blog 11: The Blind Spot

30 Apr 2015

How many stairs do you climb on the way to your class or office every day? What color was the last traffic light you passed? What was the first animal you saw today? How many coins do you have in your wallet? We all have the tendency to pay less attention to several things in our daily lives. I leave many unattended with very little effort and it doesn’t affect me all that much. However, paying attention to a few of these many things could make a huge difference in our perspectives. This scenario can be related to the blind spot (a natural malfunction in the human body). The blind spot is a small portion of the visual cortex, in which there are no photoreceptors. When light falls on this surface, the image is not processed to the brain, leaving the object/image not seen by us, despite our sharp visual skills. We all know about the ethnic war our country faced for 3 decades, and the measures being taken for reconciliation. We all know how hard Sri Lanka is toiling to build the nation with peace and integrity. We also know that as the youth of Sri Lanka, we are moving  Read More

UNLOCKED Blog 10: Feminism, Young Women and Development

23 Apr 2015

image Gender Gap Index is designed to measure gender-based gaps in access to resources and opportunities. The highest possible score is 1 (equality) and the lowest possible score is 0 (inequality).

ˈfɛmɪnɪz(ə)m/ noun the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men. Feminism, in its simplest form, means promoting gender equality; it means giving men and women the same rights, and a feminist is a person who actively advocates social, political, legal and economic rights for women equal to those of men. So why is the use of the word such a controversy? There are a million different perspectives and several myths attached to the word that we often forget what it actually means. I’ve personally come across people, especially women, who claim that they believe in equal rights but not, ironically, in feminism. Some of them regard the whole notion as ostentatious and superficial and asserted that they were beyond it, while others associate it with man-hating and homosexuality. The first argument I’m always met with when advocating feminism is that feminism will be the death of chivalry and this is what perhaps hinders a lot of women – the idea of losing respect and devotion. This led me to conclude that the whole concept of feminism is heavily misunderstood. We often confuse equal rights with social perceptions. Feminism is not about homogenizing gender  Read More

UNLOCKED Blog 9: It is the best of times, it is the worst of times: Youth and Innovations

16 Apr 2015

As a youth, I feel this quote from the Charles Dickens famed novel ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ accurately represents the current environment and opportunities surrounding youth. The opportunities appear to be endless and skills are developed so far ahead that there seem to be no boundaries. It’s a time where a young person can delve into any challenge, wrestle it and conquer it. It is the best of times. For some youth, yes! But there’s young people who do not have these same opportunities. The rapid progression of one sect of society further highlights the disparities, the lack of skills and their inability to compete on a level ground. For them, it can be the worst of times. A modern tale of young people being worlds apart. According to the Sri Lanka National Human Development Report 2014 on Youth and Development: Towards a More Inclusive Future (NHDR), youth comprises 23.2% of the Sri Lankan population, which accounts for approximately 4.64 million people between the ages of 15 and 29. You often hear and witness the sad present that has befallen many a youth in our country, and even elsewhere. I always wonder, why? What made them change? Or why do  Read More

UNLOCKED Blog 8: Lacuna and Disruptive Access to Sex and Reproductive Health Awareness Reduces Quality of Life amongst Adolescents.

09 Apr 2015

Sri Lanka, known for its sexually conservative culture is not immune to social issues such as the rampant rise of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases among the youth. Culturally imposed stigma regarding sex and reproduction matters are often considered the reasons for stoking the embers of STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) and lack of proper usage of contraceptive methods. As stated in Sri Lanka’s National Human Development Report 2014 on ‘Youth and Development: Towards a More Inclusive Future’, studies done through the National Youth Survey 2013 revealed that ‘shame’ (35.4% percent of the sample) was a key factor in adolescents not willing to access sex and reproductive health care. Despite the negatively imposed connotations surrounding sexual intercourse, abstinence is not practiced stringently. In fact, the Demographic and Health Survey of 2006-2007 found that 11.7% of female teenagers had their sexual debuts at an average age of 18 years, while the United Nations Children’s Fund survey established that only 24% of teens used condoms during sex. Due to the highly conservative culture, the stakeholders of this matter other than the teenagers, that is, the parents and educators for instance, encourage the fact that adolescents be kept in the dark regarding these matters,  Read More