September 15 marks the UN International Day of Democracy. UN states that “democracy is a universal value based on the freely expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems, and their full participation in all aspects of life” and this definition provides ample inspiration for reflecting on what it means for individuals to be citizens of a democratic country. It means being engaged in an open dialogue with the government; it means being free to become an entrepreneur in search of a better life; finally, it means appreciation of and cooperation with fellow citizens regardless of their culture or ethnicity.
Piyumi Erandima Kapugeekiyana, winner of the first place in CIPE Feature Service article. She says:
Youth political participation in Sri Lanka remains impeded by the failure of the government to create a comprehensive youth policy and by a long history of ethnic polarization. Sri Lankan politics is widely perceived by youth as a sphere of influence dominated by adults and riddled with corruption and controversy. To encourage the participation of young people in democratic processes, the government will not only have to present itself in a better light, but also find new ways to integrate these individuals in achieving lasting change.
Piyumi notes the barriers to youth participation, but also offers solutions to overcome young people’s apathy and disillusionment. In that, her essay provides an important contribution from the youth’s perspective on this special day when the world reflects upon the meaning and importance of democracy.