Sri Lanka

Social Change through digital engagement and representation of Sri Lankan Youth

Since the end of a civil war that lasted over 26 years, Sri Lanka’s government and society is engaging in a process of democratization despite facing obstacles such as reoccuring conflicts based on radicalization and religious extremism. Helvetas aspires with this project to contribute to a peaceful post-conflict society by empowering the country’s youth, bringing together all ethnic-religious communities as promoters of pluralism, democratic principles and civic participation.

  • Project Name
    Lankan Youth Civic Activism - Social Change through youth digital activism and representation
  • Project Phase
    2019 to 2021
  • Funding
    institut für auslandsbeziehung (ifa) / zivik, funded by the German Federal Foreign Office
  • Thematic focus
    Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

This project was completed in 2021.

For an inclusive and resilient democratic society  

Although the Government of Sri Lanka, supported by the international community, has taken substantial steps regarding the democratization process and in improving freedom of expression, the space and capacity for political participation of the country's young generation is still small. Thus, their involvement in the political debate and the contribution to the democratization process remains limited. In current times it is more important than ever to promote democratic participation of all groups within society.

That is why, with this project, Helvetas targets youth across all ethnic and religious backgrounds in the districts of Matara, Galle, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Jaffna and Killinochchi to contribute to a functioning democracy and thereby to a peaceful coexistence in Sri Lanka. Working together with selected local partner organizations, Helvetas creates dialogue spaces and strengthens the capacity of young voters to act as active citizens and to increase their understanding and participation in democratic processes and a pluralistic society.

Two adolescents at a table with a microphone | © Helvetas Sri Lanka
“What is pluralism?" - Adolescents from various districts learnt about clarifying definitions about pluralism, participatory discussions about difference between pluralism and diversity, various forms of pluralism such as cultural pluralism, religious pluralism and ethical pluralism during a full-day training © Helvetas Sri Lanka
Adolescents standing in front of a canvas | © Helvetas Sri Lanka
Topics like culture, impact of inequality as well as... © Helvetas Sri Lanka
Group of adolescents working on a poster together | © Helvetas Sri Lanka
...identity of majority and minorities within their civil rights and conflict management were discussed in the training  © Helvetas Sri Lanka
Group of adolescents holding papers cut into different forms | © Helvetas Sri Lanka
© Helvetas Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka_democratisation_Helvetas | © Helvetas
Multi-day training for youth on civic activism and democracy, digital platforms and advocacy © Helvetas
Sri Lanka_democratisation_Helvetas | © Helvetas
Multi-day training for youth on civic activism and democracy, digital platforms and advocacy © Helvetas
© Helvetas Sri Lanka
4-days training for selected youth. © Helvetas Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka_democratisation_Helvetas | © Helvetas
Multi-day training for youth on civic activism and democracy, digital platforms and advocacy © Helvetas
© Helvetas Sri Lanka
Visiting a mosque during a multi-day exchange camp in Batti. © Helvetas Sri Lanka

Young people who are empowered to act as promoters of the democratization process advocate for democratic principles and for the strengthening of democratic leadership in the country.

In the first run of the project, prior to the presidential election in December 2019, more than 90 young people of different backgrounds received training on personal development as well as on democratic governance, citizenship rights, local government roles and responsibilities. Additionally, the participants were trained on digital media techniques, digital story-telling and running digital advocacy campaigns on photography and videography. The capacitated young people then become mentors reaching out to far more young people in the country, by conducting these knowledge transfer sessions on democratic education in their circles and at community level. For the second phase of the project, trainings for more than 150 young people are planned.

The youth network created is further strengthened through ‘Multi-Stakeholder Forums’ which consist of local politicians, Government officials and civil society actors. This gives trained youth the opportunity to participate in existing democratic processes, including Youth Parliament and village citizens committees.

As a key element of Lankan Youth CAN, Helvetas established a digital platform (Facebook page) as a virtual space to gather experiences and opinions of other youth, to raise their concerns, to argue and counter argue on contentious issues as well as hate speech and stereotypes reaching more 500,000 people in a 3 months period in 2019.

Apart from that, through Lankan Youth CAN, Helvetas launched the advocacy campaign “Youth Demands from Elected Representatives" which is organized by the youth network in respective districts. The social-media-based campaign is accompanied at the community level through street drama, awareness-raising programs, poster campaigns and distribution of information material. Targeting all spectrums of social groups, the outreach campaign seeks to spread the collective voice of youth which will eventually harness a critical mass who has broadened understanding of civic activism, democracy and pluralism.

Lankan Youth CAN is funded by the Federal Foreign Office under the zivik funding programme of the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa).