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Blog entry by Admin User



The Preventing Violent Extremism Through Promoting Tolerance and Respect for Diversity project launched in June 2021, supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This five-month project aims to create an enabling environment for young women to actively participate in online counter-hate-speech campaigns.


Since the end of the civil war in 2009, online hate speech has spiked in Sri Lanka, resulting in violence and discrimination against targeted groups. Social media users operate in a largely unregulated space, compared to mainstream media, and for many people, especially young people, social media is their main source of information. Digital literacy among Sri Lankan social media users is very low, and users lack the awareness and skills to identify online hate speech or fake news. Even so, Search has found that more young people are striving to increase their online presence and become online “influencers.” We see an opportunity to harness this ambition into positive content online, particularly as individual-led social media has the intimate potential to reach thousands of people.

Building on five years of experience with young people in Sri Lanka, including the Youth360 projects Young Women as Drivers of Peace and Work Together, Win Together Phase II, Search seeks to support societal change by including marginalized groups in peacebuilding through a well-informed use of social media.


“IF young women are empowered to identify hate speech, develop online campaigns, and understand issues related to gender as well as women, peace, and security, AND IF they are networked with a diverse group of peers and experts, THEN they will be in a better position to take a more active role in peacebuilding and preventing violent extremism among their communities. “


The overall objective of this intervention was to create an enabling environment for young women to actively participate in online counter hate speech campaigns. The project’s outcome was increased awareness and capacity among young women around the harmful effects of online hate speech on social media. Search assisted in establishing safe spaces on WhatsApp and Facebook for young women, where emerging women leaders learned, connected, and interacted with one another. Additionally, we developed two toolkits, one on countering hate speech and the other on virtual cross-district networking program in English, Tamil, and Sinhala  to capacitate and empower young women to use social media responsibility and positively for reconciliation. We conducted four district-wise trainings on identifying and countering hate speech for the young women from Ampara, Batticaloa, Kurunegala and Puttalam districts. These women were later engaged in five virtual cross-district networking programs to create new friendships and connections, while understanding one another’s similarities and differences. This also gave an opportunity for them to explore women related issues in different contexts.


  • The online training countering hate speech reflected a 60% increase in knowledge on social media platforms, 50% increase in awareness of online security protocols and passwords, and an over 40% increase on how to report incidents of violence online.
  • During the trainings many young women conveyed that they no longer feared joining social media platforms and could better leverage social media for advocacy work.
  • Search – Sri Lanka created WEGITAL SHEROES, a closed Facebook group where young women leaders (YWL) developed and published their own social media content and shared content with one another. This closed group is still active and remains a safe online space for the young women.
  • Two videos produced by Search document the journey of ‘The Women in Technology Project.’

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