My First Vote, in partnership with the Election Commission of Sri Lanka and Facebook came together to support the Youth First Summit in Colombo. The summit aimed to educate young Sri Lankans on the importance and process of voting during the upcoming presidential elections.
The event opened with an activity where participants completed a one-page questionnaire to identify the most important issues for young people during the elections. Participants then put their responses into mock ballot boxes to simulate a real election experience.
During the session, a curtain raiser video was played to highlight the role and responsibility of the youth during elections and how they can get involved and make an informed decision. Attendees were urged to encourage other members of their communities to vote and become more engaged in the democratic process.
The Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Deshapriya spoke on the importance of the youth vote and how young people have an opportunity to support their own future and that of the country.
Following his speech, Shelley Thakral, Head of Policy Programs, Facebook South Asia, shared an overview of Facebook’s commitment to Sri Lanka and thanked My First Vote for bringing the community together to support an important event.
Natasha Jog, Policy Manager Elections, Facebook South Asia shared that Facebook believes it can be a valuable force for democracy, encouraging healthy debate, providing voters more direct access to their candidates and giving people a voice in the political process. That’s why the platform is focused on ensuring the integrity of elections on Facebook.
Prof. Rohan Samarajiva of Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka spoke at length about the agency’s efforts and youth involvement in elections and social media charter during elections.
A highlight of the event was a panel discussion where Chairman of Election Commission of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Deshapriya spoke to the importance of young people in the elections and encouraged all eligible voters to participate.
Yasas Vishuddhi Abeywickrama, Policy Programs Manager for Facebook in Sri Lanka reaffirmed the company’s commitment to supporting the integrity of the elections on Facebook.
He shared that Facebook continues to support programs in Sri Lanka that aim at promoting digital literacy and economic development. He spoke on recent programs which have trained up to 20,000 school children on how to use social media safely as well as training for grass-root entrepreneurs. He emphasized the importance of partnerships with government organizations, civil society and local community groups to build an informed community.
My First Vote’s Pushpakumara Samarawickrama, shared the importance of young people participating as informed civic members of society and encouraged all eligible Sri Lankans to participate in the upcoming elections.
There were also notable community figures who shared their thoughts on preparing for the elections and how the community can use social media to bring positive social change.
Former cricketer Roshan Mahanama, who commented on the importance of discipline during elections drawing from his sports background.
Nalaka Senadeera shared how he uses Facebook to promote the use of abandoned paddy fields again for cultivation and inspire his community for social good.
Nadeesha Chandrasena, a social activist, spoke to the use of social media positively for social change as well as for development.
Sharanya Sekaram discussed the need to be aware of cyber exploitation and violence, the mechanisms we need to effectively address this and the potential for social media to create social change.
Ascharya Jayakody spoke on overcoming adversity and using social media to share positive messages and continue her work as a fashion designer.
My First Vote theme song video was also played and the event was broadcast live from My First Vote’s Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/myfirstvotesrilanka/