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Fishermen’s journey towards the horizon

Updated: Aug 23, 2022

I am Abshar from the Silavathurai village, a fishing community in the Mannar district in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. I have completed a Higher National Diploma in Management from Sri Lanka Institute of Advanced Technological Education, (SLIATE). I have always been involved in community activities and social work since my time in school. I was thrilled when I got the opportunity to participate in the SEDR Active Citizens journey. The Active Citizens platform has given me new perspectives in community engagements and innovative strategies to approach issues in our communities. Learning about supporting effective dispute resolution especially was an eye-opening session for youngsters like me because all we knew when it comes to conflict was to think about violence and legal systems. After participating in the Active Citizens journey, I was enlightened in handling conflicts through alternate dispute resolution methods.

The problem we took on to resolve through our Social Action Project (SAP) was a long-term issue in our community about the unequal treatment of fishermen because of their differences in terms of religious beliefs and unequal power distribution. While identifying the root cause of the problem we were able to find that the fisheries inspector’s office[1], where all meetings related to the fishermen society takes place, has been abandoned for many years and since then the regular fishermen committee meeting and other meetings related to fishermen communities are conducted in different places. We also understood that conducting meetings in a common place can reduce the tension between the communities and can ease the situation in a positive manner. We arranged several meetings with relevant stakeholders and conducted forum theatre event to create awareness among communities to be accountable for their actions and to take responsibilities for their actions as well. Fortunately, while we were implementing our SAP, an external organisation offered to extend their support to renovate the fisheries inspector’s office which helped us to achieve what we desired while we were writing our SAP proposal.

The whole SEDR AC experience has boosted my confidence, improved my knowledge, and helped me to develop my skills and abilities to be more effective and efficient in supporting my local community. I also understood that there is strength in numbers. Being an Active Citizen amplifies our voices and showcases our goals of creating a change in the world and rectifying inequities in our societies.

[1] A government office dealing with all queries, issues and documentation related to fishing in the village area.

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