youth
Naushalya Rajapakse, Social Change Entrepreneur
by Kiyanna Staff
August 26, 2015

As a young person do you really feel the drive of this large population of youth?

Yes I definitely do. And as a Sri Lankan youth I not only feel it, but face it every day. In Sri Lanka one quarter of the total population are youth. And if you take the ‘big picture’, there are 1.8 Billion young people around the world. So these ‘big numbers’ not only broadcast ‘big challenges’ but also ‘big possibilities’ for youth. And today it is indeed really tough to spot a mortal young being who does not claim to play a lead role in this ‘big drive’ of youth towards social change, constructing the future they want.

Do you feel the force of youth has been recognized?

Undoubtedly. Especially if you take Sri Lanka’s role in recognizing youth as agents of social change via mechanisms like youth federation clubs, youth parliament, youth provincial councils and other youth networks, which are leading and feeding to the nation-shaping- strategies. Moreover by being the first country in the entire south Asia to have hosted the World Conference on Youth 2014 we have not only attracted global attention but respect towards the keen commitment on mainstreaming youth in the post-2015 development agenda.

At a small age you have achieved big things, what has been your experience?

Having studied at Musaeus College, I joined University of London to do my Bachelor of Law along with a Professional Qualification in Human Resource Management. And my biggest challenge was definitely ‘time management’. Because studies were certainly not the only thing I wanted to do. From day one, I wanted to do something for the society. Therefore, I actively undertook numerous social activities, along with my studies. I completed my undergraduate studies at the age of 19 and didn’t realize that I’m one of the youngest Bachelor of Law holders in Sri Lanka until my overall performance was recognized by the campus. Soon through a strenuous selection process, I was selected by the Government of Sri Lanka, as the youngest to be among the top 20 global leaders to organize the World Conference on Youth 2014.

Currently I’m pursuing my Attorney’s and intend to Master in Human Rights and International Legal Studies.

However, nothing I’ve done can be compared to what I am about to do. Currently I’m advocating for a legislative amendment to the Penal Code of Sri Lanka to unambiguously recognize the offence of sexual harassment in public transport and developing the first-ever provincial sensitive youth policies in the Island while imploring mechanisms to ensure gender equality in disaster risk reduction practices of Sri Lanka as-a-bring-back- home from the United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, Sendai, Japan 2015.

As a young person what motivated to be a social change entrepreneur to drive social change?

It is the simple realization that in Sri Lanka, we have so much unfulfilled youth potential due to gaps either in the level of policy making or implementation. Therefore, as a social change entrepreneur at UNFPA, I believe I have now been given a key to unlock the youth potential of this country.

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“It is the simple realization that in Sri Lanka, we have so much unfilled youth potential due to gaps either in the level of policy making or implementation”

That responsibility itself as a social change agent keeps me on my toes every day to ensure that I do my best to bring a more collaborative effort of social change in the country by youth, for youth.

What is the one thing that Sri Lanka should do in terms of investing on its large population of young people in taking the country to its next level of development?

I believe that Sri Lanka should definitely set up a more comprehensive mechanism to recognize the amount of work that has been undertaken by various youth networks and provide them with adequate knowledge on sustainability and most importantly on ‘advocacy’. Because, due to the lack of financial constrictions and the inadequate awareness and dissemination of international practices, majority of the youth are confined to community level activism. Most therefore function under the misconception that advocacy and policy level activities are ‘none of their business’. While in reality it is a must, that youth are aware of the policy level decisions and changes on every single policy that affects youth. Therefore they should be empowered to be equal partners of policy level changes as a mechanism to bridge the massive generational gap by recognizing and investing in youth as accountable volunteers in the process of the implementation and monitoring of national policies and practices.

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