2021 Aug 12
Gen Z is the generation that is vital to the growth of Sri Lanka. Unlike the past generations, Gen Z’s (people born from 1996 onwards) are characterised by their ability to adapt to socio-economic changes and learn new skills. In fact, Gen Z’s rely on the internet to learn new skills, promote their skills and express their ideas on various social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Gen Z’s enforce development by working towards what they are truly passionate about.
Using social media as a tool to communicate and stand up against social issues such as sexual harassment, bullying and abuse, and environmental rights, as well as to even start up their own business, Gen Z’s are not afraid to step up. This generation has adapted and learned how to effectively communicate to a global audience, which has led to significant development socially, economically and politically.
Their digital fluency and passion for positive change have allowed them to make a living by learning. Not sure how to get something done? Need help? Ask a Gen Z. They will quickly ‘Google it’ for you, and learn a new skill themselves via a YouTube Tutorial.
Disrupting the Status Quo
They are on a continuous learning path, disrupting the status quo and pushing for positive change. Just take the likes of Gen Z’s Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg and lesser-known Sonita Alizadeh. Malala Yousafazai’s story began when she decided to fight for girls’ education. With her own life at risk, Malala together with her father established the Malala Fund, which is a charity dedicated to giving girls the opportunity to achieve a future they choose. Malala received a Nobel Peace Prize in November 2014, and became the youngest-ever Nobel Laureate. She continues in her fight to ensure that girls receive twelve years of quality, free education. Next, take Greta Thunberg, a leading voice to fight climate change and an inspiration to people around the world. These are change-makers, who hold leaders accountable for their actions. Then, Sonita Alizadeh is a powerful and passionate advocate for ending child marriage. She aims to impact systems, policies and beliefs that stop girls from reaching their full potential. Through her musical talents, she has spread a meaningful message to the world in a way that is highly impactful, shedding light on the silent struggles women have faced and making their voices be heard.
So, in Sri Lanka, too, these are all topics of conversation. There are hurdles that women have to face because of the cultural mindset in Sri Lanka. A popular initiative, Not Your Nangi (Instagram account @notyournangi.sl), encourages girls to talk about the sexual harassment they face. There have been many cases of women sharing stories of the harassment they have faced on Sri Lankan roads, public transport and even in family settings. By sharing experiences and encouraging girls to speak out, women are given a sense of empowerment. This has also helped to significantly reduce the number of cases. Sexual harassment used to be a hushed topic, however not anymore, thanks to the Gen Z’s who have taken it upon themselves to speak out and speak up for themselves, to create a safe space for women, and to hold people accountable for such actions. This is a great initiative as it educates women on what they could do in such a situation, instead of being forced to keep quiet. At the same time, it encourages men to stand up for women and not sexually objectify them.
Towards Environmental Change
Recently, Sri Lanka witnessed the largest environmental disaster in its history, when the MV X- Press Pearl, a container ship, caught fire spilling oil, pellets, chemicals and other toxic contaminants into the Island’s coastline. The impact and consequences on coastal ecosystems and people’s livelihoods are undoubtedly significant when it comes to environmental disasters such as this. Hence, Sri Lanka needs young people, particularly Gen Z’s, who are tech-savvy and can get a message across digitally to influence people to make conscious decisions. For instance, Gen Z, Alina (Instagram account @ecoconscious.warrior) talks about making eco-conscious decisions. Her actions influence people to make eco-conscious decisions and push leaders to act upon decisions to save the environment.
Gen Z’s play a vital role in directing both businesses and households to opt for environmentally friendly and sustainable initiatives, products and services, and choices. From organising beach clean ups and reforestation projects, and speaking up about everyday sustainable choices such as reusing water, to influencing people by sharing these on their social media platforms, their contribution towards positive environmental change has become massive.
Into the Future
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in changing work patterns and at the same time has increased the demand for digital skills in Sri Lanka. As more people work from home and have social media at the tip of their fingers, Gen Z’s are an asset to the country as they are equipped with the potential to positively drive developmental change.
Gen Z’s love to work on what they are passionate about and become successful entrepreneurs. They are self-taught, creative, quick to learn and incredibly tech-savvy, which give them the power to speak about issues faced in the country, start their own business, influence positive change, push leaders to make more informed decisions and hold them accountable.