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Youth4Youth: A safe space for young people


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DIGANA: To celebrate International Youth Day in Sri Lanka, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) hosted its fourth Youth4Youth symposium in the Central Province from 12-14 August.

This year’s theme for International Youth Day explored the role of ‘Safe Spaces for Youth’ in contributing to freedom of expression, mutual respect and constructive dialogue. The recent communal violence in Digana and other parts of Sri Lanka highlights that young people need safe spaces where they can come together to freely express themselves, engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, and participate in decision-making processes. 

A young person’s ability to meaningfully participate in society relies heavily on the socio-economic and political environment in which they live. Without the existence of safe spaces, youth from different backgrounds may feel intimidated to freely contribute to the community.

Understanding the importance of providing safe spaces for young people, the Youth4Youth Central Province symposium created a space for over 100 Sri Lankan youth to connect ideas and build communities to nurture lasting peace in Sri Lanka. In creating an inclusive environment where no one is left behind, the Youth4Youth program ensures the participation of young people from diverse backgrounds.

Speaking on the important and positive role of youth in peacebuilding, UNFPA Representative, Ritsu Nacken stated; “The recent incidents of communal violence that took place this year call for action to create a safer space and safer Sri Lanka for all Sri Lankans, including youth. At UNFPA, we strive to deliver a world where every young person’s potential is fulfilled. This is what Youth4Youth intends to do. In order to build peaceful communities, we must consider young people as partners for peace. When youth have safe spaces to engage, without fear of discrimination, they have a better chance to contribute to peace and social cohesion in the country.”

Leading up to the symposium, a survey was conducted by UNFPA’s partner organisation, Chrysalis – a social enterprise working to empower women and youth in Sri Lanka – to identify issues and opportunities that young people face in relation to peacebuilding in the Central Province.

In light of this, Shayami Caygill, a young participant at the symposium added: “Most often, opportunities for young people are in the city. The Youth4Youth program promotes meaningful youth participation because it provides a space for young people from all over the island to contribute to social change.” The three-day symposium was attended by; H.M.P. Hitisekara, District Secretary at the District Secretariat in Kandy and W.M.K.K. Karunarathna, Secretary to the Provincial Ministry of Youth Affairs. 

In line with UNSCR 2250 on youth, peace and security, the Youth4Youth Program empowers and connects young people from the Northern, Eastern, Southern and Central Provinces in Sri Lanka through a series of regional symposiums that will lead up to a National symposium to take place this year.

Youth4Youth is delivered by UNFPA in partnership with UN Volunteers and Chrysalis, and supported by the UN Peacebuilding Fund.

 


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