Human Rights Award Winners (Laureates) came together for the second time from the on the 25th to 27th September 2020 to Orkwin Resort Nawalapitiya to breathe fresh air and refresh and gather energy while learning more about stress management with the theme “Caring & Sharing”.
The Laureates gathering was organized by the Human Rights Office Kandy to further encourage the Human Rights Activists to read the signs of the time and to face emerging challenges and threats with the shrinking democratic space in the country.
Inaugurating the gathering of the Award Winners, Laureates were welcomed officially by the staff of the Human Rights Office by presenting each one a flower, followed by a prayer and the words of welcome by Fr. Nandana Manatunga. He noted that this gathering is an expression of our caring and affection for one another and an open space to share our anxieties and challenges.
In the first session the Laureates shared their experiences of the COVID 19 lockdown from March to May 2020 and highlighted the challenges they faced being forced to limit their activism and spend time with the family. For many of them it was a new experience having to be full time at home focusing on cooking, home gardening, community exercises etc., however they said it was a time of uncertainty, surrounded by fear.
Dr. Ravindra Ranasinghe, psychological counselor, psychological & a drama therapist, in facilitating the programme, led the group to an individual exercise, inviting them to identify the “monster” in them, the fears and anxieties they experience and the reasons for such fears. Different colored drawings of the participants illustrated the type of fears and anxieties and many of the participants willingly explained the hidden meaning of the drawings.
During the first session on the second day, Dr. Ravindra conducted few individual exercises with walking meditation which was followed by group exercises. Dr. Ravindra brought to light, the possible reasons for fears with what really happened in the country since the beginning of 2020. He recalled how the youth groups drew art on street walls often depicting military victory or kings with their swords and armies, bringing further fears into the minds of the people and for them to strengthen powers of the king to defend the religion and the country.
The participants were then divided into 05 groups and they were assigned to discuss on how to make the Church Prophetic, education for grass root people, awareness for the children, expected Police reforms and empowerment and protection of Women’s Rights. The groups then presented a summary of their discussion at the plenary.
In his final session, Dr. Ravindra helped the participants to understand the Human Rights situation in the country that has to be confronted in the coming days. There was lot of interaction, with thought provoking opinions being put forward by the participants. Further, it was noted that the Human Rights Activists will need a lot of encouragement, care & concern to face the upcoming challenges.
The laureates then spent time enjoying the scenic beauty of the environment as a group. The second days came to a close with sing song and entertainment.
In concluding the 2020 Laureates gathering, a thanksgiving mass was offered by the participants on Sunday morning, on the 03rd day of the gathering before departure.
The participants who joined the gathering were the award winners (Laureates) recognized and awarded by the Human Rights Office during the annual Human Rights Award Ceremony since 2008.
The HRO awarded several human rights professionals and victims who turned out as activists and encouraged them to protect, promote and safe-guard the rights of all citizens, especially those who were denied of their rights.
With the latest developments of the country, the 2020 gathering of the award winners was designed to energize the Human Activists and to schedule a separate programme for the victims.
“HUMAN DIGNITY AND JUSTICE TO ALL”
It was first time that the Human Rights Office of Kandy organized a debate competition for the schools and inter-religious Sunday schools in the Central Province. The debate competition 2011 focused on Human Dignity and the theme was “Human Dignity and Justice to all”. Apart from the Art and Essay competitions for schools and Inter-Religious Sunday schools the debate competition was organized in view of the International Human Rights day scheduled for the 10th December. The response was overwhelming with 63 debate teams from the Central province coming forward to the competition in both Sinhala and Tamil mediums. The competitions were held since August and will finally complete on the 04th of December 2011. Various Human Rights topics based on Human Dignity were given for the debate such as Competitive educational system that over look Human Dignity, Role of the Media in promoting the human dignity and justice, Relevance of the international laws to our country, the effectiveness of the law enforcing agencies in safeguarding the Rights of the civil society, Role of the justice system in establishing a culture of human rights that protect the Human Dignity etc.
The objective of the debate competition was to create a discussion within the civil society on various Human Rights issues beginning from the senior college students. As expected the discussion spread to the principals, teachers and the parents gradually as the children were helped assisted and prepared by them. Further there was a variety of teams Muslims, Buddhists, Hindu’s and Christians from both schools and inter-religious schools participating in the competition. Children from very remote schools with less facility also participated in the competition and the Human Rights office note this as a great achievement in creating a Human Rights discourse within the society. Six members comprised the debate team, while four of them actively participated in the debate.
The panel of judges included lawyers, university lecturers, graduate teachers and experienced debaters and they played an active role throughout the competition and the Human Rights office appreciate their commitment. The debate teams profusely thanked the Human Rights office for organizing the competition and noted that it was the first time that so many debate teams came forward to participate in a debate competition in the Central Province.
The debate competition was held from October – December 2011 for almost 08 days with morning and afternoon sessions and the children had spent lot of time preparing themselves for this event along with their teachers and parents amidst of their school third term academic studies.
Human Rights Office Kandy, Torture in Sri Lanka, Disappearances in Sri Lanka, Healing and Counseling
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