Sun, 10 Dec 2023 Today's Paper

Vositha Wijenayake

29 July 2023 12:10 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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  • Whether on a national or global scale, I strive to bridge the gap between grassroots experiences and global processes
  • Ultimately, I aim to make a substantial and lasting difference in creating a more sustainable, climate-resilient and just world

She is the visionary founder of SLYCAN Trust, and she is a force of inspiration in the realm of climate action and sustainable development. With a passion for creating positive change on a global scale, she has dedicated her life to addressing pressing environmental and social challenges. Having delved into diverse fields like policy, law, academia, and media, her professional journey is a testament to her versatility and commitment. Throughout her career, she has been a youth advocate, negotiator, civil society participant, and co-facilitator in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process. Her multifaceted roles have allowed her to understand the intricacies of international policymaking and enabled her to effectively bridge the gap between global initiatives and local realities.

At the heart of her work lies the establishment of SLYCAN Trust, a nonprofit think tank driven by evidencebased policy and action. Guided by her unwavering dedication to climate change, sustainable development, biodiversity conservation, social justice, and animal welfare, SLYCAN Trust’s initiatives span across Asia, Africa, and Europe at the regional level while actively engaging in global thematic areas. One of her significant achievements is the launch of CLIMAFUGE, an innovative initiative building upon SLYCAN Trust’s entrepreneurial work. This endeavor, part of the EthicalX: Clima Innovation Hub, empowers ethical, sustainable, and climate-friendly entrepreneurship, addressing crucial gaps in the entrepreneurship landscape. Her relentless pursuit of impactful solutions and collaborations has propelled CLIMAFUGE to the forefront of entrepreneurship and livelihood support. Her passion for making a positive impact on the world is palpable, and she leads by example, motivating those around her to take action for a more sustainable and equitable future; Vositha Wijenayake.

Who is Vositha Wijenayake?

What experiences in life have shaped her as an individual?

I consider myself someone who strives relentlessly to bring about positive change in the world, both individually and by working with others. My life has been molded by various experiences, but the most impactful ones were those that showed me the person I didn’t want to become. These experiences have guided me onto the path I’m now wholeheartedly committed to, and I aspire to make a significant difference, inspiring others to join me on this transformative journey.

Share with us a summary of your professional journey?

Throughout my professional journey, I have immersed myself in various fields, including policy, law, academia, education, and media. However, my primary focus lies in legal and policy processes, with a particular passion for public international law and the local implementation of global initiatives like climate change and sustainable development. Entrepreneurship is another area I’m deeply involved in, addressing policy and on-the-ground actions to foster and scale up entrepreneurial endeavors.

What inspired you to launch the think tank SLYCAN Trust?

Throughout my journey working on legal and policy processes, both on a national and international level, I’ve realized the importance of strengthening policies and laws through evidence-based research, particularly focusing on grassroots and policymaking procedures. To meet this need, SLYCAN Trust was established as a think tank. Moreover, we aim to elevate the developing country perspective in global processes by contributing research and technical expertise as a think tank representing the Global South.

Share with us in summary more details pertaining to SLYCAN Trust?

SLYCAN Trust, a nonprofit think tank, is dedicated to evidence-based policy and action concerning climate change, sustainable development, biodiversity, ecosystem conservation, social justice, and animal welfare. Our operations span Asia, Africa, and Europe at the regional level, while engaging in global initiatives related to our core objectives. We prioritize climate change adaptation, fostering long-term resilience, and tackling loss and damage. Additionally, we focus on entrepreneurship, livelihoods, gender-responsive and youth-driven actions, community engagement, and multi-actor processes. Emphasizing cruelty-free lifestyles, our approach is characterized by inclusivity and active participation, ensuring our work resonates with diverse communities worldwide.

Was it easy to launch your own non-profit organization in Sri Lanka?

Answering this question presents a challenge, as it depends on comparing the process to another. However, I can share that a crucial factor involves comprehending the entity’s purpose, its ideal structure, and the procedural elements involved. Understanding the work’s continuity is equally essential. In my view, the initial launch of the entity was relatively easier. The real difficulty lies in sustaining it and consistently delivering high-quality outputs, demanding long-term commitment and dedicated effort to ensure success. It requires ongoing work and dedication to achieve the desired impact and make a meaningful difference in the long run.

How have you engaged in the UNFCCC process?

In 2009, I began my journey in the UNFCCC process, initially engaging as a youth focused on climate policy and action. Since then, my involvement has expanded to various roles, including civil society participant, negotiator, party delegate, and cofacilitator for different thematic areas in UN climate change negotiations. Whether on a national or global scale, I strive to bridge the gap between grassroots experiences and global processes. I aim to reflect real-life examples from the ground level in the global arena, influencing national and local policy and action with the insights gained from my experiences at the international level.

What motivates you to be based in Sri Lanka, despite the global nature of your professional life?

Sri Lanka is my home, and it holds a special place in my heart. Although my work has a global reach, I find comfort in having it as my home base. It enables me to connect with both the global and national levels, as our initiatives intertwine with local contexts. While I lead global efforts and travel frequently, I am deeply committed to investing substantial time in our projects within Sri Lanka.

Engaging with stakeholders in the country is essential to me, as it fosters a meaningful impact on the ground and reinforces the connection between the global and local aspects of our work

Share with us a career highlight?

One of the most recent highlights is the launch of CLIMAFUGE, a novel initiative that builds upon SLYCAN Trust’s entrepreneurial efforts. It’s an integral part of the EthicalX: Clima Innovation Hub, a program dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship and livelihoods

at local, national, and global levels. CLIMAFUGE’s mission is to provide vital support in bridging gaps and meeting the needs of ethical, sustainable, and climate-friendly entrepreneurship. I view this unique partnership as a remarkable achievement and a personal highlight. Witnessing its growth and impact in the future is something I’m genuinely enthusiastic about.

 

How do you strike that perfect worklife balance?

Finding a perfect balance can be challenging, but I do my best to achieve it. For me, spending time with my family is a priority, alongside fulfilling my commitments to drive change and produce meaningful outcomes. Striking this balance is essential, and I believe I succeed in achieving it, allowing me to be both effective in my work and present for my loved ones.

How do you differentiate yourself from others?

I don’t think I am fundamentally different from others. We all possess our unique qualities while sharing similarities in various aspects. Perhaps there are certain areas where I stand out, but overall, I believe we have much in common, connecting us as individuals in our shared human experiences.

Who do you look up to for inspiration or mentorship?

Inspiration often stems from challenges and needs that demand solutions, as well as from my team’s collaboration. Mentors, to me, are individuals who offer valuable insights and experiences to address situations. Among them, Judge Christopher Weeramantry holds a special place as one of my first mentors, guiding me towards working on environmental law. His exceptional kindness and significant positive impact on the world have been truly motivating and have shaped my approach to making a difference in the world.

Have you been harassed or discriminated against?

Throughout life, there have been instances of facing harassment or discrimination. However, these challenges haven’t deterred me from pursuing my goals. Many of us have our stories of facing adversity in personal and professional spheres. What truly counts is how we persevere and strive for success despite these experiences. It is essential to focus on our resilience and determination to overcome obstacles and achieve our aspirations.

Where do you see yourself ten years from now?

My vision is to scale up the impact of SLYCAN Trust’s work significantly. I aspire to see our organization play a pivotal role in shaping policy and action that leads to positive and transformative outcomes. It’s crucial to ensure that we have ample resources to support those who can build upon our contributions, fostering a broader movement towards positive change. Ultimately, I aim to make a substantial and lasting difference in creating a more sustainable, climateresilient and just world.

How do you want to be remembered one day?

As a human being who is reliable, humane, and generous.

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