Following @dare2lead’s Young Leader’s Exchange to Sri Lanka, one participant, Ben Mallon, reflects on his time in the country, the political set up, role of youth and uniquely considered the effectiveness of reconciliation efforts having himself been involved in the peace process in Northern Ireland :
Where to begin….
With 8 youth activists from the four corners of the United Kingdom I knew that the UK- Sri Lanka exchange was going to be one to remember.
The exchange is one which had many ups and downs, but the fact remained that each of us where there to direct change and influence government. Throughout the week we met with various government officials, NGOs and civil society leaders. Each group we met had different opinions on many issues, but what was similar was that each wished to see a brighter future for Sri Lanka.
I am of the firm opinion that change can take place in Sri Lanka in relation to the issues that we discussed while on the exchange- Education, Gender Equality, Health and Youth Participation. It is for those 8 young Sri Lankan’s to carry out this change, and I am certain that this is possible. It will take determination and motivation to achieve it, but it will happen.
I found Sri Lanka a learning curve on my part. As a young person from NI, I am only too aware of what conflict can do to a country and to a people. What I found remarkable was the apparent ‘normalisation’ which has taken place in the region in only 3 years of the conflict ending. Whilst there are clear differences in culture, language and faith in the Tamil areas there appears to be genuine attempts to ‘unite’ all Sri Lankan’s regardless of colour,class or creed. However, I do feel that much more must be done by the government as well as NGOs to manage this conflict resolution so that violence doesn’t reemerge in the future.
A personal highlight was visiting local schools in Columbo. As a teacher back in the UK, I enjoy experiencing different education systems, and this wasn’t an exception. To engage with young people and to discuss issues is how attitudes and opinions can change. It is for this reason that I believe education is such a necessity regardless of whether you come from the UK or Sri Lanka.
Finally, it was an absolutely pleasure to work alongside the 7 other British young people. We all had different skills which were complimentary of one another, which in turn created a diverse and united team. I am adamant that each one of us will be successful in whatever we put our minds to and always remembering the importance of ‘daring to lead’!