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Enabling youth to deliver innovative solutions to address social issues

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The Sri Lanka Development Journalist Forum with support from the United Nations Population Fund enables 10 youth to deliver their innovative projects and drive social change through the iVoice initiative Colombo, 21 September. There are 4.7 million young people between the ages of 15-29 years in Sri Lanka. As agents of change, young girls and boys have the ability to create lasting social change in an enabling environment that fosters meaningful participation and community leadership. The Sri Lanka Development Journalist Forum (SDJF) in partnership with the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) in Sri Lanka, launched www.iVoice.lk in July 2017, in an effort to promote youth participation in community development.

iVoice is a tri-lingual online platform for young people in Sri Lanka to play an active role in community-driven solutions, taking forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In August 2017, iVoice made a public call to youth around the island to submit their innovative ideas that address a social issue in their community. Over 100 innovative ideas were submitted that ranged from solid waste management to improving reproductive health education in schools, to awareness sessions on gender-based violence. 20 ideas were shortlisted for the final round. The final stage of the competition was an overnight two-day residency workshop in Colombo, which took place commemorating the International Day of Peace. 

At the residency, the 20 shortlisted participants from around the island came together and were provided the opportunity to further develop their ideas into feasible project plans that can be implemented within a three-month period. As they modelled their ideas on display exhibits, they had the opportunity to engage with the UN Resident Coordinator, Una McCauley, other professionals from the UN, as well as a visiting youth group from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) – College East, Singapore. On the last day of the workshop, the participants presented their ideas to a judging panel comprising of Ritsu Nacken – UNFPA Representative, Prof. Wanigasundera – Chairman of SDJF, Jayan Abeywickrama – UNFPA Programme Analyst, and Senel Wanniarachchi – Co-Founder of Hashtag Generation. The 10 winners were awarded Rs. 100,000 each as seed capital to deliver their presented ideas and to actively drive social change. Speaking at the event, UNFPA Representative in Sri Lanka, Ritsu Nacken said, “UNFPA works with young people, encouraging them to play an active role in driving social change and lasting peace. This project, iVoice, is an example of our work in enabling youth to be part of the solution to social issues, and towards achieving the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.”

 Chairperson of SDJF, Prof. Wanigasundera remarked, “We hope to facilitate more engagement with youth and their communities by increasing their participation and leadership skills. The role of youth in community-building is so important role”. In December 2015, the UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace, and Security, recognises that young people play an important and positive role in the maintenance and promotion of peace. iVoice is an initiative in line with the resolution that gives youth a greater voice in decision-making, thereby enabling young people to actively contribute towards lasting peace in Sri Lanka.

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