Get to know SEWF Youth Forum speaker – Anoka Primrose Abeyrathne
Not long until SEWF Youth Forum! In the lead-up to the event, we spoke with Anoka Primrose Abeyrathne about her inspiring work and what motivates her to be the change her community needs.
SEWF Youth Forum is a free event for social entrepreneurs and changemakers under 30 consisting of talks, workshops and global networking sessions. Book your tickets today here.
Anoka Primrose Abeyrathne is an innovator, social entrepreneur and advocate. A graduate of the University of Cambridge with a background in law and biology, Anoka is a Forbes 30 under 30, recipient of the Commonwealth Youth Award from Queen Elizabeth II, Sri Lanka’s first female World Economic Forum New Champion and is the currently elected Environment Lead for the Royal Commonwealth Society.
Anoka is also the co-founder of Growin’ Money – a social enterprise to empower women and vulnerable communities across the Global South through digital skills and pioneering Mangroveenvironmental enterprise. Her newest venture focuses on healthcare, building research and digital skills globally. Her petition supporting the Animal Welfare Bill is the most signed petition in the history of Sri Lanka with over 160,000 signatures in just 3 days, leading to the draft bill being revived in parliament. Her work on Mangroves led to the President of Sri Lanka gazetting Mangroves as a protected species in 2019. Speaking to Anoka about her interests and impact, we asked her a few questions to learn more about her inspiring journey.
Was there a specific ‘aha moment!’ that made you start Growin’ Money?
Yes! It started when we were talking to community members and we realized that it wasn’t possible to just volunteer without any income or benefit to the communities. The people needed more incentives to become more sustainable and that’s what made me start Growin’ Money.
Regarding the Animal Welfare Bill you led, can you tell us more about your participation in this and the impact of the bill?
A campaign and petition were started when I woke up to see a poor dog burned alive for barking at fireworks on New Year’s Day. It was the most inhumane thing I had ever seen. The bill is an important piece of legislation to set the right laws that are from the 1800s which are remnants of colonial law. The bill is to change the repercussions for animal abuse as opposed to the old fines.
What’s a specific thing you wish more people knew about the present climate situation and what action do you wish they took more of, to preserve the environment?
We need more research and innovation for solutions right now to become a sustainable economy. And it’s not just about plastic bottles or false advertising by polluters, we need to focus on the bigger picture with solutions.
What does it feel like to be a young social entrepreneur in Sri Lanka?
There isn’t always a lot of support, but I do have an incredible team of people over the years. Some agencies like the British Council and the US Embassy have been incredibly supportive as well.
Your advice to young people trying to become social entrepreneurs?
Action will always speak louder than words and by focusing on outputs you will do great things over the years. Patience is key.
Don’t miss your chance to hear more from Anoka at the SEWF Youth forum on the 28 March. Book your free place now.