The third edition of the New Generation Awards 2022 powered by Women in Management (Pvt.) Ltd. was held on 29 October at the Galadari Hotel. The New Generation Awards 2022 – Winspiration awarded commendations to a number of youth nominees under an incredibly diverse set of award categories.
Chairperson of the global brand Women in Management (WIM) Dr. Sulochana Segera shared with The Sunday Morning Brunch that the objective of the awards was to “shine a spotlight on the next generation of ground-breaking young leadership,” adding: “There is a gender gap and also an age gap when it comes to occupying positions of leadership. What I wanted to do was to bridge this age gap because really, the youth today don’t worry too much about gender, but I want to give them the platform to create global connections and effect change.”
Speaking about the first two editions of the New Generation Awards, Dr. Segera also noted that these first iterations had taken a direction different to this year’s iteration: “We had more traditional award categories and the second edition took a very different path to what the 2022 version adopted.” She added that this year, WIM was able to be more inclusive in its award selections and categories, especially since more youth were now aware of the award.
Inclusivity was a key objective for the New Generation Awards 2022, with the team working to cover a wide area of work and the many areas where youth are positively impacting their communities.
“For example, we introduced an award for ‘Young Emerging Politician’ and we were questioned about why politics was included in the New Generation Awards,” Dr. Segera said, explaining: “The reason we have these types of categories is because these are areas where we need change. If we want the youth to be more engaged and involved in politics, they have to start somewhere and we have to encourage those who do take part.”
In line with areas where youth are leading, Dr. Segera also shared that New Generation Awards 2022 paid great attention to technology, content creation, and digital media platforms, looking into online personalities from bloggers and creators to tech entrepreneurs: “We wanted to highlight the importance of social media and its impact. There are a lot of youth who, on their own initiative, are effecting change in tourism; why should we get outsiders to come and write about us when our own youth, those who experience this country firsthand, are ready and willing to eloquently share their experiences so effectively?”
Brunch reached out to some of the winners at the New Generation Awards 2022, one being Saasha Karunarathne who was awarded the ‘Positive Social Media Influencer of the Year’ award.
“I am so grateful and humbled by this award. Never have I expected nor have I ever looked for an award in this way because that was never in my vision scope,” Karunarathne said of winning the award. Giving some insight into how the process worked, she noted: “They had actually headhunted for this award, myself amongst a few others, and that is how they got recommendations, following which the judges decided on selecting me. I learned all of this information after having received the award and knowing about the process now certainly made the experience feel just that much more special.”
As a content creator, Karunarathne also explained that being awarded the title of ‘Positive Social Media Influencer’ was particularly powerful because of her personal journey and objectives as a creator and social media personality. “What I love about this award is the fact that it is not about statistics and numbers; it is about impact and the kind of impact my content has had over the years,” she explained, adding: “It is more of a critics’ choice awards rather than a numbers-based award and that part has been really amazing.”
When asked about the award’s potential impact on her career in the future, she noted that she could not say for certain: “I have never really focused on nor cared too much for awards and titles and I do not make my content going in search of awards, so what this will bring to me, I do not know. Hopefully, it brings something organically, but I am never looking for things to come out of it, just to receive it is enough of a gift.”
Legitimising content creators
Brunch also spoke to Shenelle Rodrigo and Shehaan Thahir about receiving the ‘Best Youth Tourism Promoter’ award. Rodrigo shared that they were honoured and humbled by the acknowledgement: “We didn’t even think that there will be anything that acknowledges a content creator as a promoter of tourism.”
The duo noted that the impact of the award goes well beyond honouring them as content creators: “It actually acknowledges our work and our careers as promoters of Sri Lanka. It also encourages more youth to take up work like this, to do this for the country and to take the storytelling of Sri Lanka into our own hands, as the youth who live here, on the island.”
Awards and acknowledgement of this nature also serve to point out how this type of recognition really “legitimises the profession,” Rodrigo and Thahir said, sharing that even to this day, their own parents were concerned and worried about the longevity and sustainability of their chosen career path. “Even after all the work we have done, they still worry because they don’t see this as an acknowledged legitimate career path. Winning something like this and the fact that they have acknowledged this career that we do really adds to the continued work we hope to do.”
An interesting aspect of the New Generation Awards 2022 that Rodrigo and Thahir pointed out was how the categories were incredibly diverse and inclusive towards the youth of every corner of the island, not being constrained to the work done in Colombo.
“One thing we really loved about these awards was the variety of categories. Unlike many other awards, it wasn’t concentrated within Colombo. It was really well spread out and we too got to hear about some amazing initiatives that young people are doing in this country from Batticaloa to Jaffna and all the way down south. It is great that they have really looked far and wide to find people who are doing incredible work and have been able to encourage them regardless of the region they are living in.”
Finally, the duo noted that it was curious how a professional body such as Women in Management had acknowledged and recognised the work that they were doing for Sri Lanka tourism while the country’s established authorities with their mandates exclusively for tourism promotion had yet to do the same.
“It is actually very encouraging and now seeing this type of recognition, there will be a lot more people who will take this more seriously and consider it as a legitimate career option and not just a hobby where people dabble in. Hopefully, things like this will encourage more people who really love their country and are passionate about this work to truly follow their interests,” they said.
Much like Karunarathne, while the duo did not apply for the awards themselves, they believe that spreading the word about this award and letting it be known that such recognition was available would serve as inspiration enough for many to keep continuing on this chosen career path. “Something that stood out to us at the event was when they said that this award was more than only acknowledging your work, but was also to encourage next year’s winners,” they said. Keeping with that spirit, both creators had proudly shared their achievement in the hopes of inspiring others.
The future of the New Generation Awards
On a closing note, Dr. Segera noted that the future of the awards was very bright, revealing that they were in fact looking to further expand the programme. “The next chapter is just underway, and we are looking to connect our youth with all of Asia. Perhaps not next year, but soon we hope to establish that link where we connect our youth to the rest of the world,” she said.
She noted that they hoped to continue in this work as it was their duty to recognise the good work that the youth were doing, especially those who had chosen to stay in Sri Lanka and face this crisis and take initiative to better their country.
Other scenes from the New Generation Awards 2022 included: