Selva was born in a village called Poonthottam, in Sri Lanka. When she was five, the civil war forced her and her family to leave their home and find refuge in Tamil Nadu, India. Here, Selva has been supporting her community, working as a JRS field officer for nine years.
Living in Tamil Nadu as a Sri Lankan wasn’t easy: “In the beginning, there were many misunderstandings between the host community and the Sri Lankan Tamils. Due to these misunderstandings, our youth faced problems in schools, colleges, and the elders in public spaces. The situation of the Sri Lankan Tamils was further aggravated as they were subjected to marginalisation and treated with disdain, “we were denied opportunities in schools and colleges. Our students went through stressful situations,” tells Selva.
To resolve conflicts in schools, colleges, and public spaces and to build better relations with the host community, Selva and other JRS staff members conducted awareness-raising programmes in the form of art performances.
The training they received for these performances were a result of their participation in the JRS PAX workshops. Two days of training which included learning street plays, awareness-raising songs, and folk arts. Through the training, participants acquired the tools to effectively communicate the values of peace and reconciliation.
Fostering mutual understanding has increased collaboration between young people from both communities. The financial situation has also improved for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, who have started getting more job opportunities from the host community. “We have seen that now the life of Sri Lankan Tamils is happy and harmonious. We now understand each other better and this understanding will help us to gain the support of the host community to restore the rights we lost in our homeland. We are now confident of their support in the future to find a permanent solution and to live as Indian citizens,” she concludes.