By Safna Malik
Rewarding innovation and excellence and inspiring young talent in various fields, Women in Management (WIM) in partnership with National Youth Services Council (NYSC) recently held the first-ever ‘New Generation Awards’ 2020.
Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Namal Rajapaksa was the Chief Guest, whilst MP Nipuna Ranawaka and Police Media Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana graced the event as Guests of Honour along with officials from WIM and NYSC.
New Generation Awards 2020 scheme brought young achievers together for a night honouring the incredible accomplishments of their services and for their leadership involved in entrepreneurship, arts, media, philanthropy, innovation, sports, agriculture, tourism and profession among others.
Minister Rajapaksa offered his best wishes to the 23 recipients of the New Generation Awards 2020 and said these accomplishments will lead young achievers to become responsible citizens of the nation. “Congratulations to everyone who has received this award,” he said.
He said youth empowerment could positively affect the development of the country. Besides, to build a nation and to confront the world economically it is important that we first empower our young generation.
“As a nation, our biggest hurdle is to find solutions and ways to empower young people, how we recognised their achievements to lift young trendsetters,” Rajapaksa emphasised.
The Sports and Youth Minister recalled that the Government was able to reduce the overall unemployment rate to below 5%, though the youth unemployment rate has been increased by 12%. According to data before COVID-19 and by now the youth unemployment rate has been increased up to 20%.
He also said in Sri Lanka, 1.8 million low-income families are being economically supported by the Government. For a year, the Government would spend Rs. 45 billion on low-income families, he added.
“We should encourage youths to stand on their feet and provide opportunities for them to shine,” he added.
Rajapaksa also pointed out a fact that the young generation must follow: “Sri Lankans make most innovative posts on social media and digital platforms. We need to use that innovation for the positive impact in our country rather than using it for harming the privacy and personal lives of our fellow citizens.”
WIM Founder Dr. Sulochana Segera said, “It’s high time we stop blaming our youth for their attitude and behaviour towards careers, social media, society, etc., and rather find possibilities to help them find their path of success and assist them to be happy humans than just achieving success in life. It was the main reason I brainchild this new award for youth so that Sri Lanka can move forward with a positive future for our youth.”
NYSC Chairman and Director General Theshara Jayasinghe said, “The Government’s objective is to facilitate more public-private partnerships in youth-related initiatives. That was the main objective of this award partnership.”
On behalf of the Judges Triad Advertising and Derana TV Joint Managing Director Varuni Amunugama Fernando said, “We commenced judging when the COVID 19-second wave was starting, due to that we could not have one-to-one interviews with the nominees, but considering their nominations and following up with their references judges looked for real workers, not just talkers.”
The team received 600 applications, out of that 300 were shortlisted through a rigorous selection process by an expert panel of judges chaired by National Youth Council Chairman Theshara Jayasinghe, Triad & Derana TV JT Managing Director Varuni Amunugama Fernando, International Chamber of Commerce Chairman Dinesh Weerakkody, John Keels Food Plc Non-Executive Director Shehara De Silva, Sun Match Company Director Gowri Rajan, and International Finance Corporation Corporate Governance Officer Lopa Rahaman.
Fernando said, “However, we looked through the list and did a background research to know if the nominees qualify as young achievers to make it to the final cut.”
Young trendsetters were nominated representing the commitment towards each sector in the following categories of excellence: The School Prefect of the Year St. Bridget Convent Head prefect – Rachel Cooray, St. Peter’s College Deputy Head Prefect – Graham Rahul Fernandez, Young Professional of the Year consultant Speech and Language Pathologist in Asiri Central Hospital Mirihana Arachchige Kruthagna Nadini Perera, Young Corporate Leader of the Year the Managing Director for Bopitiya Auto Springs and Chief Executive Officer at Bopitiya Auto Enterprises Manisha Sweene Rodrigo, Social Worker of the Year Balan Suthakaram from Polonnaruwa, Recognition Award on Social Service Fathima Muneera from Kegalle, Arts, Music, Dancing and Theatre category winner M. Takshila Nawodi Madumani Fernando, Recognition Awards in Arts, Music, Dancing and Theater Ilangaratnam Sajith from Kilinochchi, Best Sports Woman of the Year Anjalika Kurera, Tennis Best Sportsman of the Year Rendev N.A. Athukorala – Karate, Recognition Award in Sports Delgaha Kotuwe Kaweesha Mihinduni Rathnayake – Weightlifting, Young Inspirational Youth of the Year Buthgamumudalilage Panchal Venura Kavinda Perara – Dancing Special Need, Youth Friendly Social Media House goes to Wijaya Digital Media, Young Activist of the Year – Henaka Rallage Chiranthi Thavisha Senanayake, Young Agro Processor of the Year – Yagama Madhavi Rasangika de Silva, Madhavi de Silva, Young Pioneer Award – Kurempala Ralalage Chathura Madhumal, Young Farmer of the Year – Jeinulabdeen Muhammad Azeem from Eraul, Young TV Presenter of the Year – Kavindra Kasun Sigera, Young Media Practitioner of the Year – Pasindu Jayasinghe, Recognition award for the Young Media Practitioner – Tehani Antoinette Chandrasena, Entrepreneur of the Year – Owner CareerMe Dulani Anjana Kulasekara, Recognition Award – Entrepreneurship – Hewa Thondilage Iresha Dilrukshi, Tourism Awards goes to Jetwing Travels Emadhrie Galagoda, Judges Award – Rakitha Malewana who is a Sri Lankan young scientist and youth activist.
Awards Chair Kushlani Perera explained, “According to the statistics it is estimated that the youth population in Sri Lanka is about 4.4 million or 23% of the total population based on 2021 statistics. The youth population by sex indicates that there is an almost equal distribution of 50.23% for males and 49.76% for females. That’s the reason WIM had a gender-neutral award ceremony to recognise youth achievements in Sri Lanka.”
Many of the award winners commented that the event was held in a safe environment and they felt safe and comfortable during the event. Further Dr. Segera mentioned, “It was a risk WIM took to have this award ceremony. We debated whether we are going to wait till COVID-19 ends which we have no idea when or are we going to move forward with the new normal. WIM thought it’s time we come out and start facing the new normal positively. We wanted to ensure that this event should not be an event to spread corona but an event to inspire us to live a normal life with COVID.”
Pix by Ruwan Walpola