East London Community Organiser reflects on Sri Lankan Leaders Exchange

“The young leader’s exchange with Sri Lanka was one of the most inspiring projects I have been involved in, in terms of young people leading. I also had the pleasure of working with the most inspiring young leaders in the UK and Sri Lanka. This programme involved young people from a diverse background and different areas of the country, with a varied range of skills and experiences. This was a youth led project conducted by a group of young leaders from the UK and Sri Lanka. This was a prime example of young people at the heart of decision making process.

The week started off by making presentations about our respective countries, leaning about the different cultures and traditions of our hosts. Throughout the program we explored the Commonwealth values including mutual respect, democracy, human rights, democracy, peace, fairness and youth empowerment.

We visited several projects such as youth clubs, schools, universities, NGOs and women’s support groups. We also had the opportunity to meet young business owners and researchers; this helped to find out about the country, culture and governance from different perspectives. It was great to see young people are leading on all different aspects of the community. A visit was organised for us to visit the parliament and talk to the political leaders/decision makers.

At the end of our visit to Sri Lanka, as young people we made recommendations on policies for both UK and Sri Lanka. Recommendations were made based on what young people felt are issues in both UK and Sri Lanka, which included Education, Gender Equality, Health and Youth Participation. These recommendations were acknowledge by politicians and decision makers, and will be discussed in the parliament as well as the youth parliament and CHOGM and Commonwealth Youth Forum which are being hosted in Sri Lanka 2013.

This project put young people in the spotlight and highlighted what young people can achieve. Young people are potentially the most productive force to the country and the economy and should be valued as such. Young people should be included in the decision making process, as according to the Article 12 of United Nation’s Convention on the right of the child. Article 12 states ‘children and young people have the right to say what they think should happen, when adults are making decisions that affect them and to have their opinions taken into account.’ It is up to young people to get involved and ensure this is being upheld by ‘daring to lead’. ”

Shah Rahman

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