European Union funded, first-ever public media forum in Sri Lanka

The European Union funded EU Awareness Programme on Humanitarian and Development Assistance in Sri Lanka was completed as a project in March 2010. During this 18 month period, REDLIME, Sri Lanka’s only research and design firm, managed to demonstrate confidence and credibility towards INGOs and NGOs by striking an alternative, unbiased path through its balanced media platform and talk shows. As a result, the feedback we received from the Government and Nongovernment entities and civil society was largely positive. It managed to create a foundation for attitude change and overcome challenges such as security and political restriction and dealing with the fear factor through a positive media approach.

As the only non-political talk show created by REDLIME, with the financial support of the European Commission’s Delegation to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, and the biggest audience and number of participants, The People’s Show has housed more than few hundred experts in various fields and backgrounds and aired their views and opinions on the various issues discussed. It was a successful media forum in all three main languages of Sri Lanka, reaching more than 3.8 million people through SIRASA TV (Sinhala), SHAKTHI TV (Tamil) and CHANNEL ONE MTV (English).  In each of the 24 episodes, a particular development project was highlighted and grass root level stakeholders to executives of humanitarian and development organisations were given the limelight to express.

This forum was the only platform that offered the Northeast and the Upcountry Tamils, who were deprived of such a forum before, to come out from the darkness and voice their previously suppressed views. It has given opportunities to many stakeholders of the development community, from field-level managers to grass root level beneficiaries, to talk about current issues pertaining to the relevant topics. It has helped to create a broad understanding about humanitarian and development assistance in Sri Lanka by allowing all stakeholders at all levels to be actively involved in discussing the relevant issues based on various topics.

The People’s Show was awarded the Best TV Show of the year 2010.


  • The Sinhala talk show, with the biggest audience and number of participants, has housed more than 100 experts in various fields and backgrounds and has aired their views and opinions on the various issues discussed. In each of the 24 episodes, a particular project in the EU Awareness Programme was highlighted and grass root level stakeholders to executives of humanitarian and development organizations were given the limelight to shine. Their stories and opinions that were once confined to only their own ears were put out to be heard by more than 3.8 million of the Sri Lankan population. This has paved way to accomplish a positive impact in the minds of the people about the development partners of Sri Lanka through engaging their minds to the various features of such projects and their uniqueness. Over the duration of the show, more than 400 people have participated and shared their opinions under current topics as well as very sensitive topics.


  • The Tamil talk show has the best response and the highest ratings amongst all Sri Lankan reality shows conducted in Tamil. This forum was the one platform that offered the Northeast and the Upcountry Tamils, who were deprived of such a forum before, to come out from the darkness and voice their hidden selves. This forum has given opportunities to many stakeholders of the development community, from field-level managers to grass root level beneficiaries, to talk about current issues pertaining to the relevant topics. It has helped to create a broad understanding about the humanitarian and development assistance in Sri Lanka by making all the stakeholders at all levels actively involved in discussing the relevant issues based around various topics. Each episode of this talk show consisted of at least 30 guests who actively contributed their opinions and thus, this forum was used by viewers, from university students to housewives, as a learning platform.

The People’s Show

  • The English talk show, where sensitive, current and out of the ordinary issues were discussed and put under the microscope for deeper understanding of various scenarios of different topics. A forum for the intelligent and intellectual who have a vast knowledge on these topics were put together under one roof to discuss, argue and put forth their ideas on to the table and across to the English speaking community of Sri Lanka. Expatriates, corporate partners, educators and executives of various organizations who contribute towards the betterment of Sri Lanka gathered to voice out their opinions on each of the topics. During each show, a highlighted project of the EU Awareness Programme relevant to the topic discussed was emphasized as a “Project of the Week” to put forth the fruitful outcomes and benefits of such projects towards building a better nation. More than 200 people from various backgrounds have gathered in this forum to participate and share their opinions.

Subjects Discussed

1. Child Institutionalization

It was found by research that more than 80% of the 19,000 children living in orphanages in Sri Lanka have one parent or both parents alive – they are only there because of poverty and because their parents feel that being in an institution would provide their children with better opportunities. The project Deinstitutionalization of children by Save the Children was the main highlight of this talk show forum where it is highlighted that family is better than any other place for a child to live in. Beneficiaries of the project, their families, executives of development agencies, school students, child psychologists, lawyers, probation officers, school principals, journalists and many more took part in this forum to discuss one of the most sensitive issues at hand-Child Rights.

2. Child Safety

The episode on Child Safety focused on the day to day safety hazards that come across a child’s life as well as the rights a child has to seek protection from such hazards. The Child Led Disaster Risk Reduction, a project implemented by Save the Children was the major highlight of this forum where the children at schools are given the initiative to make their own decisions on preventing from disasters with the guidance of adults. Beneficiaries of the programme such as school children, school principals, teachers, parents, were invited to talk about their experiences. Representatives of development agencies, human rights activists, child psychologists, doctors and journalists took part in this show to discuss concerns pertaining to this topic.

3. Women Empowerment

One of the most sought after topics-“women” was discussed in this episode in terms of their contribution to economy and micro finance. The importance of empowering women in order to move forward as a financially stable country was discussed. The CIDA-funded Assistance to SANSA Development Bank project, where tsunami-affected families were given immense support to get through the tough financial conditions after the tsunami was highlighted during the show which gave priority to empowering women. Beneficiaries of the programme, officers of the development agencies, women rights activists, lawyers, mothers, female actors, dancers, singers took part in identifying the importance of women empowerment and to discuss relevant issues.

4. Agricullture

Danger of fertilizers and pesticides, pros and cons of organic farming are some of the major issues that are discussed under the topic of agriculture. A partnering project of EU and Oxfam, A Sustainable and Profitable Agricultural Technique- DAFT was the highlight of this talk show where alternative agricultural techniques were introduced to the Sri Lankan farmers who are now enjoying the many benefits of the newly introduced system. The agrarian community including farmers, environmentalists, government officials, representatives of organic food production groups, took part in this discussion to identify issues related to this topic and solutions.

5. Youth Empowerment

A project by Sarvodaya, “Vocational Training Centres in Trincomalee and Batticaloa” which provides vocational training and paves way for better employment opportunities to the youth was highlighted during this show. The panel consisted of youth who have benefitted from these trainings and families who were indirect beneficiaries, vocational training providers, government representatives, journalists, youth activists, self-employed people and other stakeholders who discussed the benefits of empowering the youth, challenges and on how to overcome them.

6. Education Facilities

A project by Sarvodaya, “Vocational Training Centres in Trincomalee and Batticaloa” which provides vocational training and paves way for better employment opportunities to the youth was highlighted during this show. The panel consisted of youth who have benefitted from these trainings and families who were indirect beneficiaries, vocational training providers, government representatives, journalists, youth activists, self-employed people and other stakeholders who discussed the benefits of empowering the youth, challenges and on how to overcome them.

7. Development and Peace

One of the most controversial topics in today’s context was touched upon delicately in this talk show episode. DPSL programmes by Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) which target youth and small-scale farmers, and aim to strengthen ties between the three main ethnic groups in the country by bringing individuals from the different communities together and helping them understand one another was highlighted during this show. Experts on post-war reconciliation, representatives of humanitarian and development agencies, people from different ethnic back grounds, journalists, community club members, social workers participated in discussing the essence of maintaining peace in Sri Lanka.

8. All for a Cup of Tea

The plantation sector is of great national importance to Sri Lanka, accounting for over 15% of the country’s foreign earnings and bringing in about Rs. 71 billion (US $645.5 million) annually to the country.  Ironically, it is also one of the most disadvantaged communities in Sri Lanka. The European Union funded Care International implemented Plantation Community Development programme was highlighted during the show. Plantation workers, plantation managers and other representatives of tea estates, representatives of governmental and nodevelopment agenciesvernmental institutions, human rights activists and other stakeholders took part in an hour long discussion on how the drastic conditions the tea workers face in the country should be addressed and improved.

9. Mental Health

A war-torn society, displaced communities, and economic hardships not only have adverse effects on the development of a country, but will also have an undesirable impact on its people.  Sri Lanka is now facing a new challenge regarding the mental health of its population. One of the most sensitive issues discussed during the course of the talk shows, various stakeholders- from mental health patients, social workers, psychologists, doctors to families of affected took part to discuss the current conditions of the mental health of Sri Lankans and ways on how to improve. The European Union funded VSO implemented Supporting and Developing Rights-based Mental Health Service in Sri Lanka programme was highlighted during the show to emphasize the need to re integrate these once isolated sector of patients back to the society and give them the necessary support to start their lives.

10. Fisheries

Sri Lanka being an island nation, with a coastal area around the island that spans 1,340 km, has always depended on its fishing industry as a form of income generation.  The tsunami of 2004, however, caused grave damage to Sri Lanka’s fishing industry, making it the worst-affected sector among all industries of Sri Lanka.  The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) reconstructed two very significant fishing harbors in the country recognized as prominent income generators, the Mirissa and Hikkaduwa harbours situated in the southern sea belt as part of the Harbor Reconstruction project, which was highlighted during the show. Benefitted fishermen, development agency representatives, representatives of relevant government bodies and other stakeholders of the fisheries industry took part in this episode.

11. Post-Tsunami Reconstruction – Temples

The Asian Tsunami of 2004 left almost all religious sites in the coastal areas of Sri Lanka severely damaged, depriving people of the spiritual experience that may help them deal with the psychological trauma caused by the natural disaster as well as the place of worship that they are used to visiting regularly. In a post-tsunami and post-war context, religion played a major part in rehabilitating the affected people. The Norwegian-funded, FCE implemented Reconstruction and Repair of Tsunami-Damaged Religious Sites was the highlighted project of this discussion. Religious leaders such as Buddhist monks, Reverend Fathers, Hindu priests and Malay priests, development and humanitarian workers, tsunami-affected people, social workers, government officials discussed the importance of religion and issues of inter religious harmony towards building a peaceful Sri Lanka.

12. Post-Tsunami Reconstruction – Housing

After the 2004 Asian tsunami, a massive amount of time and money was spent on the reconstruction of houses for the affected families who were stranded with no roofs over their heads. The Swiss Consortium (comprises of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC, Swiss Solidarity, the Swiss Red Cross, and HEKS), housing reconstruction programme known as the owner-driven Cash for Repair and Reconstruction (CfRR) project was highlighted during the show. The affected families from all corners of Sri Lanka, government representatives, representatives of development agencies, social workers and other stakeholders discussed and voiced out their different opinions during this show.

13. Women’s Participation in the Economy

Women’s participation in the economy has contributed immensely towards the economical growth of the country. Yet, women are faced with many challenges in the workforce and their contributions are not appreciated as they should be. The PRET project, funded by the Canadian International Development Agency funded and implemented by WUSC, was highlighted during the show, in which women were trained to enter non-traditional trades such as motor mechanism, carpentry and many more and work shoulder to shoulder with men. Beneficiaries of this programme, representatives of governmental and non governmental bodies who contribute to the efforts, women activists, self employed women, social workers, journalists, psychologists took part in this discussion.

14. Language and Governance

Approximately 74% of the Sri Lankans belong to the Sinhala community while Hindus and Muslims form approx. 18% and 7% respectively. The violation of language rights has caused Sri Lanka to undergo a three decade war and with the end of this war in order to safeguard peace, the need for language equality is essential. Representatives of development organizations and various associations who put forth and generate ways to eradicate the differences and inequality of the language rights in Sri Lanka, government officials and public service providers who are faced with difficulties in providing services to all communities at the same level of quality due to their lack of knowledge in other languages, various people who has experienced difficulties due to this situation, media personnel, authors, language teachers, students and other concerned groups who have identified the need for language equality in Sri Lanka took part in an hour-long discussion to analyze and identify the issues pertaining to language differences and ways to overcome these differences. A programme by the Canadian Agency for International Development and Foundation for Co-Existence, “Language and Governance”, was highlighted.

15. Economy

Sri Lanka ranks 77 from the world with a GDP of USD 41,320 according to the CIA World Fact Book in 2009. Various stakeholders of the Sri Lankan economy- economists, investors, investment analysts, investment consultants, financial journalists, government officials, corporate heads , successful self made businessmen came together to discuss issues in the current Sri Lankan economy and how to contribute towards making Sri Lanka one of the economically strongest countries of Asia.  The need for foreign investment, how to attract investors were discussed and a project funded by European Union and implemented by Ceylon Chamber of Commerce “SEMSA” was highlighted where strategic partnerships between the Sri Lankan business community and Southern Europe was encouraged.

16. Community Infrastructure

A programme by the European Union and IOM implemented to maximize potential income generation and to provide social development and livelihoods support to communities that have suffered the effects of both the 25 year conflict and the 2004 Tsunami, where milk chilling centres, maternity clinics, schools were built in order to accomplish these aims was highlighted during this talk show episode. Project based beneficiaries from Southeast, environmentalists, development organizations who contribute towards the development of infrastructure, social workers and government officials participated to discuss the issues that current Sri Lanka faces with regards to community infrastructure, services as well as ways of improvement.

17. Environment

“Eco Village”, a project by Sarvodaya which strives to create a community with features of cooperative lifestyles in harmony with the local environment using social and ecological tools such as consensus decision making, inter-generational care, alternative economic models, whole systems design,  renewable energy systems, etc; was the focus of this talk show episode. Executives of development agencies, environmentalists, corporate heads, government officials, representatives of governmental and non governmental bodies concerned about the environment, ecologists, zoologists, architects, and various others who are concerned about the environment of Sri Lanka participated in discussing issues pertaining to the environment and on how to get involved and create a greener Sri Lanka.

18. Awareness on Human Rights

One of the most controversial episodes on the talk shows, the post-war situation in terms of human rights, was discussed in depth to find solutions to the current situation that Sri Lanka is facing. The Awareness Raising and Access to Human Rights Information and Services for IDPs campaign, implemented by the Rural Development Foundation (RDF) and funded by the European Commission, aims to raise awareness among IDPs living in camps in Puttalam and Vavuniya districts about Human Rights, especially the rights of women and children. Stakeholders of this project, from executives, field officers, beneficiaries and other participants such as human rights activists, representatives of governmental and nodevelopment agenciesvernmental organizations who work in this field, lawyers, students discussed the rights of each and every Sri Lankan to live independantly and on how to achieve long lasting harmony in the  nation.

19. Corporate Social Responsibility (Public-Private Partnership)

Corporate heads, representatives of local and international corporate actors who actively practice CSR in Sri Lanka, social workers, lecturers, development agency representatives and other stakeholders took part in this forum to discuss the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility in Sri Lanka and the way forward. A Public Private partnership between the United States Agency for International Development and Brandix Pvt Ltd where an apparel factory was formed to provide job skills training and employment to the youth in Batticaloa was highlighted during this episode, thus encouraging others to make use of these strategic partnerships to contribute towards the development of Sri Lanka.

20. Tourism

Being an island nation with wonderful weather throughout the year and breathtaking scenery, tourism is one of the main industries in Sri Lanka. With the end of a deadly war and new investment streaming in to the country, stakeholders of the tourism industry such as government officials, tourism development authority representatives, experts in the field of the hotel industry, journalists, travel agents, international corporate experts and many more discussed ways in improving the tourism industry of the nation in order to generate more employment, give better quality service to the tourists and bring in new investments to the development of the country. The reconstruction of the tsunami-destroyed Arugam Bay Bridge by the US Agency for International Development which encouraged the increase of tourism activities in the area was highlighted during the show.

*Sri Lanka Tomorrow – the final four episodes of the talk shows are built on the future of Sri Lanka. People in the forums discussed futuristic approach towards a better Sri Lanka.

21. Knowledge Society

The need for knowledge on Information technology and English in a globalised market has become an essential and a basic in the job market. Getting this knowledge to the rural villagers is a challenge due to many reasons. IT experts, development workers, social workers, English teachers, school students from various parts of Sri Lanka, computer engineers, university lecturers and students, policy makers discussed issues pertaining to this topic such as the challenges, how to overcome them and the need for a knowledge based society in Sri Lanka to attract much needed further foreign investments to the country.

22. Road to Reconciliation

Since May 2009, Sri Lanka is a war-free nation, although there is much to recover from due to the remnants of the war. People went through excruciating pains with so much of lives lost in all communities. A lot is left to do in order to bring peace and recover from the great setbacks the entire nation faced with. Human rights activists, policy makers, politicians, journalists, authors, teachers, lawyers, development and humanitarian workers, film directors, social workers and child rights activists all took part in this forum to discuss concerns relevant to this topic with a futuristic outlook.

23. Business Community

The business community of Sri Lanka plays a major role in the contribution towards the development of the economy of Sri Lanka. New business ideas to generate income and employment opportunities, attracting foreign investment, financial gains through strategic business partnerships were discussed in this forum with a futuristic approach by many stakeholders of the business community such as corporate heads, university students and lecturers, representatives of international companies in Sri Lanka and many more.

24. Sri Lanka Tomorrow – Grand Finale

The grand finale of the talk show encompassed of a discussion of all the issues discussed through its journey -with a futuristic outlook. The panel of this show consisted of various people such as human rights activists, child rights activists, university students, lecturers, scientists, environmentalists, religious leaders and representatives of religious organizations, corporate heads, governmental officials, representatives of humanitarian and development agencies, social workers, teachers, school students, ideologists  as well as many other stakeholders of Sri Lanka.


1. The European Union Delegation to Sri Lanka and Maldives (EU) is an economic and political union of 27 member states that are located primarily in Europe. The EU has developed a single market through a standardized system of laws which apply in all member states, and ensures the free movement of people, goods, services and capital.

2. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is Canada’s leading agency for development assistance. Canadian assistance to Sri Lanka began in the1950s with the provision of food, raw materials and heavy equipment. Major infrastructure projects were financed later. In the 1980s, rural development and agriculture were the main areas of work undertaken by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), which is the federal agency responsible for administering most of Canada’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) program.

3. U.S. Agency for International Development  (USAID) Through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the American government provides bilateral assistance to Sri Lanka. In over 50 years of partnership with Sri Lanka, USAID has contributed more than $1.9 billion to the country’s development, working in the areas of economic growth, agricultural development, environment and natural resources, health, education, democracy and governance, transition initiatives and humanitarian assistance.

4. The Norwegian Embassy in Sri Lanka The Norwegian Embassy in Colombo is one of Norway’s 104 missions abroad. 30 people work at the Embassy, which is divided into development, consular and political sections. The Ambassador is also accredited to the Maldives.

5. Swiss Cooperation Strategy for Sri Lanka (SDC) is organized and funded by the Swiss Government and operates by financing programmes both directly and in partnership with other agencies to countries around the world. SDC established its presence in Sri Lanka in 2003 with a Cooperation Office in Colombo and a Field Office in Jaffna. The activities of SDC are based on the Swiss Cooperation Strategy for Sri Lanka, The Swiss Medium Term Programme II 2010-2012 which has been jointly developed by SDC (Humanitarian AidRegional Cooperation and Global Cooperation) and Political Division IV (Human Security) of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA and the Swiss Embassy.

6. CARE International is one of the world’s largest private international humanitarian organizations, committed to helping families in poor communities improve their lives and achieve lasting victories over poverty.

7. Volunteer Service Organisation (VSO) is the world’s leading independent international development organization that works through volunteers to fight poverty in developing countries. VSO’s high-impact approach involves bringing people together to share skills, build capabilities, promote international understanding and action, and change lives to make the world a fairer place for all. VSO Sri Lanka volunteers are working in the areas of disability, mental health and participation and governance.

8.  Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) is an independent, non-profit and non-political voluntary body. It is the focal point for business contacts both locally and abroad, and has specialized committees, affiliated associations and bilateral business councils.

9. The Rural Development Foundation (RDF) A Sri Lankan Non Governmental organization working for Basic Rights and Human          rights especially in the north and east as well is poverty affected areas like Puttalam and Mannar. The organization has been involved in humanitarian relief activities and dealing with IDP issues.

10.  World University Service of Canada (WUSC) is one of the largest Canadian non-governmental development agencies in Sri Lanka, WUSC is active throughout the country with a focus on delivering vocational training in conflict and tsunami-affected areas as well as reducing poverty and social exclusion in plantation communities.

11.  International Organization for Migration (IOM) works to encourage social and economic development through migration, and remains committed to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society. IOM in Sri Lanka works in close partnership with national and local government institutions, non-governmental agencies, grass-roots, community organizations and the donor community, to assist national entities to address pressing and complex challenges in migration management, to respond to the needs created by humanitarian emergencies in the country and to ensure improved living conditions for vulnerable communities.

12. OXFAM GB in Sri Lanka, Oxfam’s focus is on helping those affected by conflict, tsunami recovery work, gender equality and sustainable livelihoods.

13.  Save the Children in Sri Lanka is the non-religious, non-political, independent rights based organization working for the protection, promotion & the full realization of children rights.

14.  SEWALANKA FOUNDATION is a Sri Lankan development organization that enhances the capacity of disadvantaged rural communities to identify and address their own development needs. They coordinate training and support services that contribute to the economically viable, socially just and ecologically sustainable development of Sri Lanka.

15.  SARVODAYA is Sri Lanka’s largest people’s organization. Over the last 50 years we have become a network of over 15,000 villages. Today they are engaged in relief efforts in the war-torn north as well as ongoing development projects.

16.  BRANDIX is the largest exporter of apparel in Sri Lanka. Brandix is engaged in developing, manufacturing and marketing end-to-end apparel solutions for global fashion super brands.

17. HAYLEYS, Multinational Conglomerate with businesses categorized in to Global Markets and Manufacturing.

18.  SANASA DEVELOPMENT BANK is a unique bank committed to uplifting the standards of living for low income Sri Lankan families with its range of micro finance activities. The ownership of the bank is confined to the SANASA Movement. The clientele of the bank, among others, consists of farmers, fisherman, vendors and laborers and small business owners, making SANASA truly a people’s development bank.


Leave a comment