In Search of Peace
As someone who has grown up under violent conflicts in both the North and the South of Sri Lanka, and seen continuous deterioration of the relations between the different ethnic communities, degradation of democratic governance, human rights and moral conduct and responsibilities, today I want nothing more than sustained peace and ethnic and national reconciliation in my country. Even as many peers, colleagues, friends and relatives left our country in despair, I never gave up my hope for a reconciled nation. I remain hopeful and continue working towards creating a greater understanding of the impacts of war and violence on the civilian population.
Becoming a peace journalist was a life-transforming experience, which inspired me to utilize my journalistic skills to raise awareness about conflict-affected communities and work towards peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. Visiting the country’s North/East areas, for me, is equivalent to going to a reference library where one is overwhelmed by the repository of information and knowledge contained inside thousands of books. Ideally, I would like to read and absorb information and knowledge in each book in the library. Books in the real scenario are the individuals that have born into or experienced conflict and survived to tell the ‘story’. I would like to give space for as many individuals as possible to tell their ‘story’ because as a nation that has suffered the consequences of 30 years of war, there is so much we can learn from the narratives of the affected in our efforts to build peace in a deeply-divided society.
I believe the knowledge and experiences of the affected should shape all genuine efforts towards reconciliation and sustained peace. And they have a right to articulate their concerns, needs and aspirations about how peace should be established. Until and unless they are heard and become part of the peace building process, achieving peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka will remain elusive.
My vision therefore is to help those affected to weave their narratives to make the fabric of peace to cover the nudity of violence that has engulfed my country for too long. In doing I want to ensure that all segments, including women are involved in weaving this fabric of peace because they possess critical elements that will make gossamer threads of peace stronger.
Women bore the brunt of effects that stemmed from the country’s bloody 30- year civil war. Notwithstanding their roles in the war, they were kept detached from nearly all past efforts of peace negotiation and conflict resolution. It’s time for those of us with this knowledge to change things around, and advocate for the integration of women in peace building efforts by making women as partners and not bystanders. This is what I want to do; continue to advocate for equal space for women to increase their voice and become involved in making decisions that affect their lives.
While I may have the knowledge, I don’t have the means to overcome all the challenges associated with providing and increasing space for women to become involved in building peace. For example, it’s not easy to convince women at the grassroots that they need to expend some of their energies in working for improved rights while rebuilding their own lives and that of their families from scratch. Advocacy and awareness raising should go hand-in-hand in our quest for the creation of that platform for women. I want to become a Voice of Our Correspondent to build my own skill to learn how to make use of the new technologies to do my job better and more effectively. If selected, with support from mentors, I hope to develop my own capacity and become a better advocate for women’s rights and opportunities. Besides drawing on the mentors, I will also be able to learn from the ‘lived realities’ of other women like me who are part of the World Pulse network made up of women from 190 countries. This is a media action network that can become a source of information and inspiration for individuals like me. And I would like to make optimal use of this network by becoming a Voice of Our Correspondent learning exercise.