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Where can we find a space to grow ?
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Where can we find a space to grow ?

Young people can be a force for good or evil in their community writes Wathsaridu Karunarathna,  26, a Correspondent from Sri Lanka, who argues that youth-centric programmes are needed to create what is known as the 5th space. This is a space where young people can develop their own views of themselves and the world . It is a space to explore, and express themselves as they serve their communities.

“These millennials are useless.They just stick to their mobile phones and laptops without knowing what’s going on in their community,” That’s what many Generation X critics say about Generation Y. But why do some young people seem so disengaged and in some cases even destructive? That’s because many times young people do not have youth-centric programmes that help them to grow into the best versions of themselves.

Between1987 and 1989 Sri Lanka experienced a devastating insurrection. It was led by the youth of a local political party as they fought against the ruling party. Though this resulted in death and hardship, and has left a negative mark on our nation, it also showed us that the youth can be at the centre of decision-making processes. If however we want these to be decisions that are good for the community, then  youth-centric programmes are needed to allow our young people to explore, make decisions, make mistakes, learn by doing, and develop themselves and their communities.

Young people spend their time in four main ways : with family, friends, involved in leisure,  and in career activities or education. But all of these four spaces operate on the basis of established worldviews which govern their activities and expectations in these spaces. The routines of families force young people to adopt certain customs and beliefs. Their time with friends can often be influenced by peer pressure, while their education and career activities are often based on a pre-establised societal values. Even playing a sport, and reading books can be activities young people engage in because of societal and family pressures. What is need to aid young people in their development is a 5th space where they can discover and transform themselves by engaging in social action.

The concept of the 5th space is outlined in The Ocean in a Drop – Inside-out Youth Leadership , a book co-authored by Arjun Shekhar, Meenu Venkateswaran, Ashraf Patel, and Kamini Prakash. It is based on the experiences of Pravah and ComMutiny the Youth Collective in India and explores the idea that as young people engage in youth- led activities and projects they build self-awareness,  develop healthy relationships, leadership skills and emotional intelligence which lead to positive engagement in other facets of their lives.

The Gamata Kotiyak project implemented by the National Youth Services Council in Sri Lanka practises  is an example of a project that uses the core principles and values of the 5th space. Young people in this programme are invited to propose community service projects that they want implement at the grass roots level. The successful projects are provided with seed funding up to 75000 rupees by the Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs. The young people have to source  the balance of the money for the proposed project from crowdfunding.

Another programme that allows young people to take their grassroots level issues to the national level, is The Sri Lanka Youth Parliament . Here  young parliamentarians participate in round table discussions to come up with innovative solutions to community and national problems.

Youth-centric development programs that use principles of the 5th place are vital to engage young people. The participants are empowered to both initiate and implement projects on social issues that they are passionate about, and are shaping the world they want while developing deeper self-awareness, more life skills and greater engagement with the community.

Personally, I want to extend my thanks to the founders of 5th Space  Ashraf Patel, Meenu Venkateshwaran and Arjun Shekar from Pravah and Community – the Youth Collective in New Delhi, India

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Photo credit:  Buddhika Gunasekara; Director, Professional Youth Workers Association Sri Lanka

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About me:

I’m from Welimada, Sri Lanka. I am a Civil Engineer who is passionate about uplifting the living standards of the average community. A former travel journalist, I believe that advocacy can increase the credibility of civil society organizations, strengthen and expand the democratic space by encouraging the participation of citizens in policy-making. That is what I strive for.

In wanting to build a participatory dialogue I have engaged in freelance writing. A former rower and a karateka, I love volunteering and traveling.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

 

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