Promoting Civic Participation in the Hill Country
A multi-ethnic country, Sri Lanka is challenged by the politics of identity. Developing a collective identity has been a continuous struggle for Sri Lankan society. Its diverse communities maintain strong identities, cultures and beliefs. To transform such dynamics, Sri Lanka needs proactive leadership, and the participation of an empowered civil society. Marginalized groups need to be empowered to take responsibility to work for positive change and to advocate for improved quality of life for their populous.
Sri Lanka's Indian-origin Plantation Tamil population is still subjected to hierarchical structures and cultures instilled upon their arrival into Sri Lanka as migrant laborers under British colonization. Although the legal and civic structures for their equal participation now exist, they are yet to be fully accessible and aptly utilized.
Our work in the Hill Country reaches out to Indian Origin Hill Tamil population, in both the Central and Uva Provinces, to create awareness through media and trainings and to empower youth groups on legal, socio, economic and cultural rights and responsibilities.
SFCG's innovative approach involves two complementary approaches: behavior change communication and cooperative actions. The project aims to empower youth through improving their skills to become agents of positive social change. Trained media professionals, solution oriented dialogue platforms, quality community radio productions, and empowered youth leadership will help to promote greater community responsibility and facilitate service delivery to improve the quality life for the plantation community.
Our project features the following activities based on the key components of training for capacity building, understanding alternatives based on dialogue, and the impact of media.
Radio for Active Citizenship
"Panjavarna Kairu" (5 color band) is a 32-episode radio drama, aimed at reaching the greater Hill Country population with key messages about civic, legal, socio, economic and cultural rights and remedies for everyday problems. The radio drama complements a series of interactive radio talk shows known as "Netrikan" engaging key speakers, including youth leaders, local government officials, plantation owners, and academics. "Know Your Rights" radio quiz aims to create an active listenership and monitor the knowledge gains, behavioral changes of the listeners and maximize community participation.
Youth Leadership: Promoting Dialogue for Cooperative Action
We work with Hill Country youth leaders, to help develop their leadership capacity, civic engagement skills, problem analysis and community action projects with citizenship and justice components. The inclusion of youth in community decision-making is promoted by facilitating inter-generational forums, bringing together youth and relevant key power brokers to address their issues, such as better access to education and vocational training opportunities; language trainings and skills-building; and greater effective access to local-level decision making bodies
Seed Grants for Youth Groups
Fifty youth leaders, together with their groups, will implement community projects identified by them, under the thematic areas of citizenship, youth civic engagement and legal rights issues. SFCG trainings and other awareness-raising sessions enable the youth to develop partnerships with local decision-making institutions for the successful implementation of their projects.
"Encompassing all, the aim of SFCG work in the Hill Country is to convene a process for youth leaders in the plantations, relevant stakeholders and power brokers to institutionalize avenues for youth to contribute to community decision-making processes and create quasi-official youth advisory groups"
- SFCG Sri Lanka
SFCG Sri Lanka, with support of the U.S. State Department, works in partnership with two local NGOs, the Power Foundation and Sewalanka Foundation.
Power Foundation works at the grassroots level amongst the tea plantation workers, is the key partner in the radio program series. They conduct other community radio initiatives in the Hill Country promoting gender equality and peace building activities between the plantation community and neighboring villages.
Sewalanka Foundation is a development organization that enhances the capacity of disadvantaged rural communities to identify and address their own development needs. They have years of experience in working with the plantation youth, thus they are the training coordination partner to the project.