A young man's concern on harassment in public transport

by Ajith

Damith Chandana is a 21 year old school leaver who lives in Uda Bowala village in Kandy. He studied in Kingswood College and now he is continuing his further education. 

He is regularly engaged in community work with his peers in the area. Last August, he saw a Facebook post on the iVoice Idea Competition which called for innovative ideas from young people to address social issues in their community.

He participated in an awareness session conducted by iVoice in Kandy and submitted an idea. His idea was selected as one of the best 20 ideas and he was invited to a workshop to improve his concept to a feasible project through mentorship and guidance from experts. 

Ultimately, his proposal was selected as one of the best 10 ideas and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Sri Lanka offered him Rs.100,000/= seed capital to implement it.

Damith lives near Kandy city. He has a younger sister who is studying for G.C.E. Advanced Level examinations. His father works in the Prisons Department and his mother is a housewife. The entire family uses public transport often even though they have a private car. He used to walk to school but uses public transport daily to attend tuition classes and community work.

"I have noticed harrassment taking place in public transport but the victims mostly remain silent. Most often they do not complain or ask for help. Had they complained openly, I think the issue could be brought to the surface. That might ultimately serve the purpose of changing attitudes and perspectives of the people in terms of harrassment in public transport," Damith argues. 

Therefore, he submitted an idea related to this issue. He wanted to conduct an awareness session in his community on this issue and create a video based on the views of the participants. 

With the support of the Kandy Youth Forum of American Embassy, Damith conducted a workshop for 44 persons on 26th November 2017. He used social media and posters to give publicity to this public seminar. The majority of the participants of the programme was girls aged between 14 and 25. Most of them were school students. 

"As a young man, this is the first time I led the organizing of a programme like this. The experience I gained from is highly valuable for my future," Damith pointed out. 

Dr. W. Jayathilaka of Perdeniya University was the key resource person in the workshop. He defined harrassment in public transport and guided the participants to propose ways to act against the menace. Kandy American Corner also helped Damith to deliver the programme. Amuthu Creations was helping him in video.

"During the practical session, the participants suggested conducting more similar workshops, using poster campaigns and producing videos to make aware people regarding the harrassment in public transport. Based on their views I am now producing a video to be used to take forward this dialogue. We must end this," Damith said. 

Await Damith's video.