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Chamathya Fernando, a youth leader from Sri Lanka was recognized by the United States Department of State as a Global Emerging Young Leader at a ceremony in Washington, DC last week.

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Mark Taplin presented the awards to ten youth including Fernando at the annual Emerging Young Leaders Award programme.

Each year, the Emerging Young Leaders Award programme at the State Department recognizes 10 young people, ages 18-25, from around the world for their courage in resolving conflict, promoting security and creating economic opportunity in challenging environments.

Chamathya Fernando
Chamathya Fernando

Mark Taplin, Acting Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs, said older people often complain about millennials being self-absorbed, but he added that does not apply to these 10.

“Our honourees are climbing mountains that other 20-somethings would typically not do. They’re ascending to new heights through courage and conviction that few would aspire to reach, and especially at their age,” Taplin said.

The awarded youth leader will visit the US for an intensive three-week programme designed to recognize and support their efforts to enforce positive societal transformation.

An undergraduate of University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Chamathya Fernando, is known for her work on empowering women and girls against gender based violence. She is the coordinator of ‘Stop the Violence’ Campaign of Sri Lanka Girls Guide Association (SLGGA) and is a National Trainer for ‘Voices against Violence’ an educational curriculum co-developed by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) and UN Women.

Fernando was chosen as the Girl Champion from the Asia Pacific Region for the WAGGGS’s #TeamGirl Campaign in recognition for her work under the UN’s development goal for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women and Girls, in 2016. She represented Sri Lanka and WAGGGS as a Youth Delegate at the UN Commission on the Status of Women held in New York.

Honourees will first visit Washington, D.C. where they will be recognized in a public ceremony for their efforts. They will also participate in Global Youth Service Day events, where they will share in the value of community service. They will attend meetings with U.S. government officials and non-governmental organizations.

The awardees will then travel to cities across the United States to participate in professional meetings and engage with their American counterparts. They will visit Roanoke-Blacksburg, Austin, and Chicago. The young leaders will reconvene in Washington, D.C. to share project plans and examine ways they can collaborate and build on their experiences.

The Emerging Young Leaders exchange program will continue in their home communities with mentoring and support through a virtual exchange. Upon their return home, the awardees will be eligible to apply for individual grants to support their work.

Other winners include Naomi Bugre of Malta, IbnulAmeen of Afghanistan, Raj Kumar of Pakistan, Quyên Lưu of Vietnam, Mohandi of Algeria, Jahongir Olimov of Tajikistan, Noé Petitjean of Belgium, Salazar Vila of Peru and Hanna Tams of Jerusalem

VOA News and US State Department