NLF Success Stories | Samadana/m | Making a difference one sign board at a time

Samadana/m “Breaking Barriers-Building Bridges’ workshop inspires a language warrior

The ‘Breaking Barriers-Building Bridges’ project implemented by Samadanam, works towards building reconciliation through the protection of the language rights of the minority communities. Having identified the lack of awareness as one of the primary barriers to creating a bi-lingual culture this project has been working in the Central, North Central and Southern provinces to promote awareness of the Official Languages Policy (OLP) and respect for language rights.

Sadeesh Kumar was a participant of one such Language Rights workshop conducted at the Hope Estate in HewaHata. The workshop helped Sadeesh recognise his languages rights as enshrined in the constitution of Sri Lanka. Now seeing his capacity to communicate and enjoy public services in the language choice as his right also awakened his civic responsibility to influence and advocate the better implementation of the language policy at community level. His personal campaign to promote awareness among public officials, and the community at large, of the mistakes on signboards in the Tamil language was born of the realisation that he too could make a difference. Now whenever Sadeesh notices glaring inaccuracies in the Tamil Language on signboards at Government buildings and state-run buses, he immediately notifies the relevant government authorities. Taking pictures of those mistakes he shares them on Facebook as a means to promote awareness of the language rights of the Tamil community. He expresses “I have witnessed first hand the challenges my community faces in obtaining public service institution simply because applications forms and signboards are sometimes only in the Sinhala language. The applications and signboards available in Tamil sometimes make no sense. Taking part in the Samadana/m workshops helped me realised that I have a voice to stand up for the language rights of my people. So here I am taking small steps towards social justice”.

Inspite of the unique challenges posed by COVID-19, the Samadana/m team has been conducting many such awareness workshops with grassroot communities in the Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Matale and Hambantota districts. Part of these very interactive forums is to identify the community level gaps and challenges in relation to language rights. Brainstorming with the community for sustainable solutions to the identified challenges is part of Samadana/m’s long term plan to establish 7 Community Action Team for Co-existence through Language (LC-CAT).