I was selected by the Commonwealth Writer Foundation to take part in Commonwealth People’s Forum 2013 followed by Creative expression workshop that was held in Chaya Tranz, Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. The opening ceremony was held in Galle on 10th of November where HE Mahinda Rajapaksa (President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka), HE Kamalesh Sharma (Secretary General of the Commonwealth Secretariat), Sir Anand Satyanand (Chair of the Commonwealth Foundation) were the speakers.
11th November – Exploring the Post-2015 Development Agenda
It was a pleasure to take part in this plenary discussion where the delegates were able to raise questions from key speakers and add to the ‘Post 2015 Road Map’. The audience was provided with an overview of the Post 2015 development agenda.
At the end of the discussion the CPD Reference Group began to draft the CPF outcome document using the input of delegates that participated in the discussion. Followed by a delicious lunch the Forum held a few parallel themed workshops. I chose two themed workshops to attend of ‘Equitable Growth’ category and Inclusive and ‘Sustainable Development’ category.
The topic of the first workshop I took part in was “Women’s socio-economic empowerment – Do we need a single, stand-alone goal on women’s socio-economic empowerment?”.
The workshop was a deliberate find ways of empowering women and girl child through proper strategies such as promoting education and attitude changes in breaking the stereotype for women in acquiring jobs. However I doubt their idea of an empowered woman. A woman becoming a CEO of a company was their example of the utmost level of empowerment. It made me question whether women that have achieved certain victories other than becoming a CEO are not empowered.
The next workshop was “Creative expression – Creative expression’s role in development”.
This workshop related to literature which I could relate myself to. I was glad to meet the speakers, Ellah Allfrey OBE (Former deputy editor of Granta magazine), Professor Fredrick M.D’Aguiar (Professor of English in Virginia Tech University, novelist and playwright), Arvind Mehrotra (Indian poet, anthologist and literary critic) and Jacqueline Asiimwe-Mwesige (Poet and a member of the Uganda Association of Women Lawyers).
The workshop was aimed at using creative expression for a better tomorrow. Creative expression was presented as a methodology to make people empower with knowledge and also a tool to arise the sensitivity of people. A few unanswerable questions were raised, such as how to make money from creative expression in order to stay sustained in the changing economy. In the evening a cultural event was held in which dancers from the 9 provinces of Sri Lanka performed, followed by a ‘Fisherman’s Village’ dinner.
12th November – Taking a Regional Approach
The first draft of CPF outcome document was presented.After a plenary briefing of the topic took place the audience was asked to take part in regional sessions. I joined the Asia – Regional Post-2015 session conducted by Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA) and Third World Network (TWN).
Groups of participants were formed and brain storming sessions were held in round tables. A repertoire was assigned for each group whose responsibility was to communicate the outputs of the brain storming sessions to the CPF civil society reference group for the creation of outcomes document. The groups were requested to highlight the problematic areas that require to be addressed in Asia region in terms of development.
Once the brainstorming session was concluded the repertoires communicated each group’s outputs and the audience was allowed to make amends to the outputs. Finally the repertoires gathered and prepared the outcome document of the Asia- regional session which will ultimately provide the basis for discussion of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers at CHOGM 2013. The content of outcome document of the Asia- regional session is included when creating the final version of CPF outcome document by CPF civil society reference group.
In the evening delegates were taken to Galle Town hall where a cultural show organized by Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement which is the largest people’s organization in Sri Lanka., Sri Lanka was held. The show comprised of native dance items of Sothern province, Sri Lanka.
13th November – Skilling up to Deliver the Post-2015 Development Agenda
The CPF outcome document was presented in the final plenary session. Then the closing ceremony was held. Delegates went on selected leaning journeys to observe the field work being undertaken by civil society in Sri Lanka. I was lucky to win a chance to take part in the Commonwealth People’s Forum 2013 and to provide my input for Post-2015 Development Goals. The areas discussed in the forum were possibly the same set of topics that were discussed in the last CPF. The world is developing very slowly, and executing the strategies for development of civil society has never been easy. Perhaps we have so far taken only a small step, but I believe today’s world is better than what is was yesterday and hope tomorrow I will see a better world than today.