© Helvetas / Bruna Fossati
Sri Lanka

Young People on Course for Reconciliation

© Helvetas / Bruna Fossati

In five districts in northern, eastern and southern Sri Lanka, Helvetas’ partner organizations conduct training courses and exchanges between teenagers and young adults from different ethnic groups so that they can carry the spirit of reconciliation and tolerance into their villages and communicate and network across cultural boundaries.

  • Project Name
    YouLEAP: Reconciliation Work with Young People
  • Project Phase
    2016 to 2024
  • Funding
  • Thematic focus
    Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Healing war wounds and overcoming barriers

Whereas in the past the focus was more on hatred and prejudice between Sinhalese and Tamil communities, today's conflicts arise primarily from religious convictions and power relations between Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims. Generational conflicts and gender inequality are other major social challenges.

Our Crossing Boundaries project targets youth and young adults to promote a vision of inclusive and more equitable futures. We train and support committed Sri Lankan young women and men in the areas of communication and leadership, conflict transformation, network building and promotion of cultural diversity, and participation in democratic processes, so that they can implement activities in their social environment - youth clubs, schools, families and communities. Since the end of 2019, this work has been increasingly supported via an internet platform and social media. Through exchange programs, young people visit their peers in other parts of the country to build relationships and positive attitudes. Particularly motivated and competent young leaders are further trained as youth ambassadors to drive transformation and change with other like-minded initiatives in the country. This includes supporting young men and women as active and informed citizens in democratic processes such as local debates on development and demands to the government or participation in elections.
To ensure that young people are increasingly heard, adult women and men are trained as "mentors" to accompany the young people in their processes. This also includes involving the various religious leaders for inter-religious dialogue. 

© Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation
«We practiced methods of managing or averting conflict more effectively. That helped us a lot, and we want to make that possible for other women too»

Kejita Balachandran (25), who organized a workshop in her village, Sri Lanka.

The participants at the youth meetings talk about their experiences and preconceptions. They discuss traumatic experiences – both their own and those of others. Above all, they learn how many experiences they have in common with their peers from other ethnic groups. When staying with families of a different ethnicity, they share in the host family’s everyday life and come to understand that the main concerns and problems in Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim families are the same: food, health, education and the question when and how young adults can strike out on their own.

They bring their insights back to their villages and organize workshops themselves on reconciliation and conflict management for youths and young adults. Our partners put them in touch with politically influential figures, moreover, to ensure that their efforts towards healing a war-torn society will gain traction – and due recognition from the authorities.

© Helvetas
Two young women organized a workshop to address the consequences of war and conflicts in the village among women. Simple group games should help to build up trust and confidence at the beginning. © Helvetas
© Helvetas / Bruna Fossati
The young workshop leaders have learned their knowledge in reconciliation courses and exchange weeks as part of the Helvetas project. © Helvetas / Bruna Fossati
© Helvetas
They instruct women to talk openly with each other about conflicts and problems in the village - such as war trauma or domestic violence - which they would like to address. © Helvetas
© Helvetas
Cultural activities should strengthen identity and self-esteem. © Helvetas
© Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation
«Our parents fear for our safety. Before, we used to regard all the Tamils in the north as terrorists.»

Amila Kasun Pathina Jaka (19), a Singhalese woman who took part in a trip to get to know young Tamils, Sri Lanka.

Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

In many countries where we work, men and women are unable to claim their rights and participate actively in decision-making processes.

How Helvetas Supports People in Sri Lanka

More than 42 years of engagement for development and peace in Sri Lanka

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