UNDP works to rebuild peace, fellowship amongst youth in Sri Lanka
The usually sleepy town of Vavuniya in northern Sri Lanka recently saw a surprising burst of activity. The small Tamil community was in the news for a slightly unusual reason: it was hosting Sinhalese school children and teachers from Matara district in southern Sri Lanka for a sporting event.
Sri Lanka is still recovering from the fall out of a three decade civil war that came to an end in May, 2009. UNDP’s Communities for Peace project, better known as C4P, invited children with disabilities from Matara to meet and compete with their counterparts in the north. Prior to the end of the conflict, movement between the North and the rest of the country was difficult since large parts of the North were controlled by rebel forces. Now the peace project is beginning the difficult and long-term work of repairing relationships between communities that were torn apart by violence.
“This is the first time we have come out of the South,” said Namasha Madhumati, one of the visiting students. “It’s a big event for us. Back in Matara I only associated with Sinhalese people but here I’m meeting people belonging to a different community, speaking a different language. We feel like brothers and sisters. The people here are warm, they treat us like family.”
Namasha is also happy to have won some awards along the way, she added.
This particular UNDP peacebuilding programme began in 2008 and is funded by AusAID, the Australian Government aid programme. Participants work in 11 districts to strengthen local governance institutions and help improve the social conditions and livelihoods of people living in conflict-affected communities, from the internally displaced to the villages and towns that host them. Vulnerable groups included women-headed households, young people and people with disabilities are particularly prioritized.