Home / Columnists/ Safe spaces for youth

Safe spaces for youth

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Monday, 13 August 2018 00:31

When you hear that there are thousands of young people who don’t qualify after their O/L examinations, and there are hundreds of thousands more not in employment, education, or in formal training at any given time, it is a stark reminder of how vulnerable young people are. 

We say that our youth carry with them the hope of the world, but who carries them? Young people are increasingly vulnerable in a world filled with conflict, violence, drug and human trafficking, the spread of disease, natural disasters, lack of education - and the list just goes on. Somehow every trial of the world seems to affect young people the most. Young Sri Lankans, in particular, lived in volatility for almost three decades during the war, and almost a decade later, we are still experiencing the remnants and repercussions of communal violence. 

In Sri Lanka, close to a quarter of our population is estimated to be youth between the ages of 15-29 years. According to available data, close to 98% are literate. We have numerous national policies that are in place to empower our youth.  There are many actors, state and non-state, global and local, continuing to invest in youth. Despite all the good intentions, investments and policies that exist, there are many areas which require urgent attention. Youth unemployment continues to be one of the biggest issues, and there are serious concerns regarding skills mismatch as well. 

It is also a known fact that a lot of youth in Sri Lanka are looking for the easy way out. School drop-out rates are increasing, as easier ways of making money are presented. For instance, young boys would rather purchase a three-wheeler and earn a daily wage, rather than complete their education and find employment.  Even when they complete their education, often, many young people would want to secure a ‘Government’ job than considering the corporate sector or becoming an entrepreneur.   

The issues faced by young people are complex, and requires interventions and programs that cater to the aspirations of today’s youth to become future-fit.  We need to build platforms that enables young people to champion and thrive in a competitive global market.  The world’s young people need safe spaces -- public, civic, physical and digital spaces where they can freely express their views and pursue their dreams. 

Everyone working towards empowering our youth needs to come together. We need more coordinated efforts, we need further investment in skills development and education, especially in STEM education. Trainings offered should look at future jobs and youth need more spaces and opportunities to build life skills and learn. As they are the torch-bearers of tomorrow, it is also imperative to create safe spaces where they can come together, engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision making processes and freely express themselves. While there are many types of spaces, safe spaces ensure the dignity and safety of youth.

On 12 August, we celebrate International Youth Day (IYD) and this year, the focus is on “SafeSpaces4Youth”.  In Sri Lanka, a platform is currently being designed and developed by the Ministry of Youth Affairs, with the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), to empower the youth of Sri Lanka through a more coordinated approach. Through this partnership, a Comprehensive Youth Development Program for Sri Lanka will be developed, and will identify key areas for strategic interventions and provide a framework for integrated youth development programming.  The UNDP is also working in partnership with the Ministry of Digital Infrastructure and Telecommunications, the National Youth Services Council and the Information Communication and Technology Agency of Sri Lanka to promote social innovation and youth entrepreneurship through the National Youth Social Innovation Challenge, which is a national platform facilitating youth to become social entrepreneurs. 

These are just a couple of strategic initiatives. There are many more by many others. If we are to truly realise the vision of building a future-fit youth, as we mark another IYD, we need to commit to engage more young people in our work, listen to their aspirations, provide spaces and platforms for them to feel safe and thrive, and to work in a more coordinated way to empower our youth. 

(The writer is Partnerships and Youth Focal Point, UNDP Sri Lanka Lab Lead a.i. Citra Social Innovation Lab) 

Share This Article


1. All comments will be moderated by the Daily FT Web Editor.

2. Comments that are abusive, obscene, incendiary, defamatory or irrelevant will not be published.

3. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.

4. Kindly use a genuine email ID and provide your name.

5. Spamming the comments section under different user names may result in being blacklisted.


Today's Columnists

In the desert of Tamil films, actor Sivaji Ganesan was an oasis

Saturday, 22 September 2018

‘Indian Film,’ first published in 1963 and co-authored by former Columbia University Professor Erik Barnouw and his student Dr. Subrahmanyam Krishnaswamy, is considered a seminal study of the evolution and growth of Indian cinema. The book is cit

Imran may turn blind eye to blasphemy law and persecution of Ahmadiyyas

Saturday, 22 September 2018

There are clear signs that Pakistan’s freshly minted Prime Minister, Imran Khan, will make a sincere effort to reduce corruption and maladministration in the domestic sphere. In foreign affairs he is likely to make a brave attempt to mend fences wi

The rate of exchange, capital flight and the Central Bank

Friday, 21 September 2018

The Central Bank (CBSL) exists for the sole purpose of price stability. Its controls on the financial system and monetary policy exist to maintain price stability. As put forth many times by the Governor, the failing of the CBSL to control inflation

Red flag over the Sri Lankan Navy

Friday, 21 September 2018

Shocking story Rusiripala, a former banker in Sri Lanka, who has taken to writing in Daily FT, is perturbed by the red flag I have raised (Daily FT article 18 September) over the shocking charge that our Navy had operated a ransom gang that had abduc

Columnists More