Jeewa Shakthi started as a group effort to find a solution to the extremely high suicide rate in the Thanamalvila area, they concluded that the root causes were not only conflicts on a personal level, but those that existed on a community level across Sri Lanka. As a result they began to work on achieving conflict transformation and peacebuilding in the community, hoping to provide people with the skills necessary to transform their personal and social conflicts.
Currently Jeewa Shakthi aims to mobilise people at the grassroots level to achieve a sustainable peace in the country by both promoting awareness around, and encouraging the practice of, democracy, and providing training that gives people the practical skills in conflict transformation and prevention which are lacking in Sri Lankan society.
Good governance through political coexistance
Election violence has been one of the main threats to community peace for many years. The Good Governance initiative deals with this head on by bringing community leaders and politicians together to put a stop to outbreaks of violence, giving the individual communities a political voice during the election process.
Jeewa Shakthi selected an area that had reported some of the highest levels of violence in previous elections and sought agreement from all politicians standing for election to abide by responsible campaigning practices. After Jeewa Shakthi’s intervention there was not a single report of election violence in the following election, something all parties – police, the community, and politicians – put down to the success of the project.
Conflict management and federalism – workshop series
This initiative works to reduce conflict within communities by educating leadership figures in methods of securing peace through awareness, negotiation and reconciliation. The community leaders are taken on a field tour and participate in a training and workshop programme to educate them in methods they can employ to keep conflict at bay within their own villages.
The participants also had their prejudices challenged through exposure to the lives of groups they had little understanding of. For example, some participants were very much against the concept that Tamils face problems in Sri Lanka, and as such were taken to visit the Tamil refugee camps. One participant in particular was so moved by the state in which the refugees have been living for the past 10-15 years, he used all the money he had with him to buy biscuits for the Tamil children in the refugee camp, despite being one of those most vocal in their opposition to the idea Tamil people face any hardship in Sri Lanka.
Street drama programme for the presidential election in 2005
Jeewa Shakthi organised a street drama group performance to promote peaceful voting before the presidential election in 2005. The performances were successful in reducing election tension that often results in violence. Staging drama performances in the areas that had previously been dangerous at election times enabled them to educate the communities of the need for responsible actions, from both the political parties and the voters themselves.