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INSIDE Story

Tharika Fernando

TODAY FOR
TOMORROW

Restless for change

parallax background

INSIDE
Story

Tharika Fernando

TODAY FOR
TOMORROW

Restless for change

Enthusiastic, energetic and empowering… These are the words Tharika Fernando uses to describe herself. Having completed her photoshoot, she crosses her legs and smiles.

Recently appointed a Climate Change Ambassador for the Global Youth Climate Network’s (GYCN) Cohort 2021, Tharika’s passion for championing environmental causes is evident in the way she speaks about her love for the planet and related water conservation initiatives the world over.

She’s been part of several globally recognised démarches that endorse climate change mitigation. Tharika was the first Sri Lankan to participate in the General Assembly of the World Youth Parliament for Water (WYPW) organised by the International Secretariat for Water (ISW).

And her most recent water initiative in the Puttalam District was recently awarded a grant for financial and technical support by Global Youth Take.

She was also a semifinalist of the second edition of Global Youth Take Action, which was organised by Youth for Water and Climate. It is evident that this ‘island girl’ wants nothing more than to save the oceans around us.

Tharika spends her days campaigning against climate change, specifically on initiatives that deal with the supply and conservation of water. In addition to being a millennial activist, she’s also a civil engineer, working for Sri Lanka’s National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB).

Indeed, she is treading a career path that lacks significant female representation.

The politics of climate action are as entrenched and complex as the phenomenon itself; and though Tharika has no magic solutions, her commitment is evident and inspiring. Young, passionate and restless for change, she is ready to teach us about the value of saving even a drop of water to protect our planet.

Ashwini Vethakan sits down with the GYCN’s Cohort 2021 Ambassador for Sri Lanka as she shares her life story, and likes and dislikes, as well as hopes and aspirations.

Hair and Make-up Mihiri Fernando (of Salon Mihiri)
"The ambassadorship also allows me to work with other team members to establish a position paper on water and climate change"

Life

Q: What sort of child and then teenager were you?

A: I was a mischievous and naughty child; and since I’m the youngest in my family, I had a carefree childhood. As a child, I was talkative and straightforward; and as a teenager, I always stood up for justice when it came to people and nature related issues.

Though happy and content with what I have, I nevertheless work hard and dream of greater achievements. And I take pride in what it has taken to get here – i.e. to where I am today.

Q: Tell us about your love for the environment – when did this take root and why?

A: My love and concern for the environment began when I was 11 years old. I studied at Devi Balika Vidyalaya, which is next to the Borella General Cemetery; it all started with a discussion about the issues surrounding cremation and the impact this has on the environment.

I still remember the school assembly where the issue was discussed. That was the day I realised that as human beings, we have a greater responsibility to work towards conserving nature.

Q: Your most memorable event in life so far…

A: The day I graduated as a civil engineer.

Q: Do you have any other passions?

A: The betterment of the future of our youth is something I am passionate about, and I’m constantly striving to empower them to achieve their goals. I also take a keen interest in working on water related issues.

Q: What does representing Sri Lanka as an ambassador for the GYCN’s Cohort 2021 mean to you?

A: Being selected to represent Sri Lanka means a lot to me. This is a once in a lifetime experience so I consider it a privilege – I now get to work alongside other ambassadors from around the world.

The climate change issues they must deal with amid other challenges are severe. Some of these ambassadors are also young professionals like myself or even undergraduate students who have to deal with worse climate situations in their countries.

Participating in educational and knowledge sharing sessions with experts on climate change allows me to reflect on how a single thought has managed to boost their careers, and have an amazing impact on the world.

Parley for the Oceans, the Climate Action Network’s advocacy campaigns, the role of the private sector in combatting climate change fea-tured by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the role of youth in combatting climate issues highlighted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) are some of these programmes.

The ambassadorship also allows me to work with other team members to establish a position paper on water and climate change – all of which is very exciting!


Quick-fire round

Day or night
Night

Netflix or cable
Cable

TikTok or Instagram
Instagram

Spotify or radio
Spotify

Online or offline
Offline

Dogs or cats
Dogs

Beaches or mountains
Mountains

Bath or shower
Shower

Walk or run
Walk

Pants or dresses
Dresses

Dress up or dress down
A mix of both – depending on the occasion

Truth or dare
Truth

Work or play
Work

Stay in or party out
Party out


"It was during my undergraduate days that I realised being an engineer working on water and climate related issues is my calling"

Career

Q: At what point did you realise that this is what you wanted to do for a living?

A: To be honest, being an engineer was never really part of the plan. It was during my undergraduate days that I realised being an engineer working on water and climate related issues is my calling.

Having participated in different environment related forums and several other discussions about water, I realised that I wanted to serve in this particular field.

Q: Had you not become an engineer, what do you think you’d be doing right now?

A: I’d probably be a lawyer or social activist.

Q: What has been your most challenging hurdle in life so far?

A: I didn’t gain entrance to a local university after completing my A-Level exams.

It was difficult to accept that particular rejection and then have to study at a private university. This was the most challenging hurdle that I’ve had to overcome.

Q: Which climate activist do you admire the most – and why?

A: Greta Thunberg. I admired her call to action to world leaders to become more concerned about climate change. She cut through the idea of it being ‘rocket science’ and emphasised the simple fact that it was up to us to save our planet.

Q: And which global climate change initiative would you like to see ‘breaking the internet’?

A: Parley for the Oceans. Humanity as a whole wasn’t ready to deal with a pandemic so I’m not sure how the world will react to the next challenge – which as reports suggest, could deal with the impact of ocean pollution especially in terms of plastic in the sea.

The ocean plays a pivotal role in the water cycle – it causes and affects climate change. I would like to see more people working towards safeguarding and protecting our oceans.

Q: The least favourite part of your job is…

A: Doing an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job! I would love to work flexible hours and also like to change the perception that ‘experience comes with age’; because the way I see it, experience comes with how you see and interpret things.

Q: What are your thoughts on the Fridays For Future initiative? Do you think Sri Lanka’s young people could eventually take climate change as seriously as global youth?

A: I’m really happy and proud about the noise they’re making with their voices. That’s what the younger generation should do. Experienc-ing a pandemic has helped many people think about and work on potential future challenges.

It would be great if the youth of Sri Lanka could also think of changing their lifestyles instead of following common trends.

People need to know that working on climate change doesn’t simply mean researching rising sea levels or greenhouse gases. It is also about our daily consumption of junk food and basic lifestyle choices such as the number of brand-new clothes we purchase.

Q: Is there a Sri Lankan climate change activist you wish to work alongside?

A: I have already begun working with Lonali Rodrigo. She’s a climate change activist who is currently trying to promote a circular economy and uplift fashion at a time when apparel has been a major issue in the climate change discourse.


Tharika-Fernando-Living-Magazine-5
“I’d love to spend my days on the
beaches of Thailand to feel calm and gain some clarity.
But I also enjoy getaways to the mountains"

Lifestyle

Q: What is your definition of ‘success’?

A: The ability to be happy and independent.

Q: How would your family and friends describe you?

A: My family would describe me as their naughtiest and most mischievous child! But my friends on the other hand, would say I’m someone they can always reach out to because I am always open to listening to their issues without passing judgement.

Q: You suddenly find yourself stranded alone on an unknown island... what are the five most important things you’d need?

A: Water, the rosary, some snacks, a hat and a notebook.

Q: What is your ideal holiday destination – and why?

A: I’d love to spend my days on the beaches of Thailand to feel calm and gain some clarity. But I also enjoy getaways to the mountains.

Q: If you could become an ambassador for a global cause, what would it be – and why?

A: I am really interested in learning about water governance and working on issues related to it. People must handle work on water related issues diplomatically and work together to ensure safe water access to all.

Q: How would you describe life in Sri Lanka?

A: It’s challenging. Being a female engineer who is working in an area that is male dominated can sometimes be nerve-wracking.

But it is interesting nonetheless; especially when it means we have to work together – regardless of our gender – towards a common goal for the sake of our country.

Q: And how have you coped with the pandemic and related lockdowns?

A: I have used that time to work on different avenues of learning while also widening my network and upskilling myself.

And I participated in several youth related initiatives, volunteered to teach students for examinations and supported many other causes. I also invested time on myself, and spent quality time with my family and friends.

Tharika-Fernando-Living-Magazine-76
"The future of our youth is something I am passionate about and I’m constantly striving to empower them to achieve their goals"

What’s Best

GLOBAL ICONS
Sheryl Sandberg
Malala Yousafzai
Elon Musk

GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE INITIATIVES
Parley for the Oceans
Care International
Project Baala

Tharika’s Favourites

BRANDS
Charles & Keith
fusion 14
Mondy

FOOD
Tom yum soup
Seafood pizza
Chocolate milkshake

HOLIDAY DESTINATIONS
Thailand
Europe
Sinnanagavilluwa (in the Puttalam District) – “Where my very first water project is underway…”

Enthusiastic, energetic and empowering… These are the words Tharika Fernando uses to describe herself. Having completed her photoshoot, she crosses her legs and smiles.

Recently appointed a Climate Change Ambassador for the Global Youth Climate Network’s (GYCN) Cohort 2021, Tharika’s passion for championing environmental causes is evident in the way she speaks about her love for the planet and related water conservation initiatives the world over.

She’s been part of several globally recognised démarches that endorse climate change mitigation. Tharika was the first Sri Lankan to participate in the General Assembly of the World Youth Parliament for Water (WYPW) organised by the International Secretariat for Water (ISW).

And her most recent water initiative in the Puttalam District was recently awarded a grant for financial and technical support by Global Youth Take.

She was also a semifinalist of the second edition of Global Youth Take Action, which was organised by Youth for Water and Climate. It is evident that this ‘island girl’ wants nothing more than to save the oceans around us.

Tharika spends her days campaigning against climate change, specifically on initiatives that deal with the supply and conservation of water. In addition to being a millennial activist, she’s also a civil engineer, working for Sri Lanka’s National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB).

Indeed, she is treading a career path that lacks significant female representation.

The politics of climate action are as entrenched and complex as the phenomenon itself; and though Tharika has no magic solutions, her commitment is evident and inspiring. Young, passionate and restless for change, she is ready to teach us about the value of saving even a drop of water to protect our planet.

Ashwini Vethakan sits down with the GYCN’s Cohort 2021 Ambassador for Sri Lanka as she shares her life story, and likes and dislikes, as well as hopes and aspirations.

Hair and Make-up Mihiri Fernando (of Salon Mihiri)

Life

Q: What sort of child and then teenager were you?

A: I was a mischievous and naughty child; and since I’m the youngest in my family, I had a carefree childhood. As a child, I was talkative and straightforward; and as a teenager, I always stood up for justice when it came to people and nature related issues.

Though happy and content with what I have, I nevertheless work hard and dream of greater achievements. And I take pride in what it has taken to get here – i.e. to where I am today.

Q: Tell us about your love for the environment – when did this take root and why?

A: My love and concern for the environment began when I was 11 years old. I studied at Devi Balika Vidyalaya, which is next to the Borella General Cemetery; it all started with a discussion about the issues surrounding cremation and the impact this has on the environment.

I still remember the school assembly where the issue was discussed. That was the day I realised that as human beings, we have a greater responsibility to work towards conserving nature.

Q: Your most memorable event in life so far…

A: The day I graduated as a civil engineer.

Q: Do you have any other passions?

A: The betterment of the future of our youth is something I am passionate about, and I’m constantly striving to empower them to achieve their goals. I also take a keen interest in working on water related issues.

Q: What does representing Sri Lanka as an ambassador for the GYCN’s Cohort 2021 mean to you?

A: Being selected to represent Sri Lanka means a lot to me. This is a once in a lifetime experience so I consider it a privilege – I now get to work alongside other ambassadors from around the world.

The climate change issues they must deal with amid other challenges are severe. Some of these ambassadors are also young professionals like myself or even undergraduate students who have to deal with worse climate situations in their countries.

Participating in educational and knowledge sharing sessions with experts on climate change allows me to reflect on how a single thought has managed to boost their careers, and have an amazing impact on the world.

Parley for the Oceans, the Climate Action Network’s advocacy campaigns, the role of the private sector in combatting climate change fea-tured by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the role of youth in combatting climate issues highlighted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) are some of these programmes.

The ambassadorship also allows me to work with other team members to establish a position paper on water and climate change – all of which is very exciting!


Quick-fire round

Day or night
Night

Netflix or cable
Cable

TikTok or Instagram
Instagram

Spotify or radio
Spotify

Online or offline
Offline

Dogs or cats
Dogs

Beaches or mountains
Mountains

Bath or shower
Shower

Walk or run
Walk

Pants or dresses
Dresses

Dress up or dress down
A mix of both – depending on the occasion

Truth or dare
Truth

Work or play
Work

Stay in or party out
Party out


Career

Q: At what point did you realise that this is what you wanted to do for a living?

A: To be honest, being an engineer was never really part of the plan. It was during my undergraduate days that I realised being an engineer working on water and climate related issues is my calling.

Having participated in different environment related forums and several other discussions about water, I realised that I wanted to serve in this particular field.

Q: Had you not become an engineer, what do you think you’d be doing right now?

A: I’d probably be a lawyer or social activist.

Q: What has been your most challenging hurdle in life so far?

A: I didn’t gain entrance to a local university after completing my A-Level exams.

It was difficult to accept that particular rejection and then have to study at a private university. This was the most challenging hurdle that I’ve had to overcome.

Q: Which climate activist do you admire the most – and why?

A: Greta Thunberg. I admired her call to action to world leaders to become more concerned about climate change. She cut through the idea of it being ‘rocket science’ and emphasised the simple fact that it was up to us to save our planet.

Q: And which global climate change initiative would you like to see ‘breaking the internet’?

A: Parley for the Oceans. Humanity as a whole wasn’t ready to deal with a pandemic so I’m not sure how the world will react to the next challenge – which as reports suggest, could deal with the impact of ocean pollution especially in terms of plastic in the sea.

The ocean plays a pivotal role in the water cycle – it causes and affects climate change. I would like to see more people working towards safeguarding and protecting our oceans.

Q: The least favourite part of your job is…

A: Doing an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job! I would love to work flexible hours and also like to change the perception that ‘experience comes with age’; because the way I see it, experience comes with how you see and interpret things.

Q: What are your thoughts on the Fridays For Future initiative? Do you think Sri Lanka’s young people could eventually take climate change as seriously as global youth?

A: I’m really happy and proud about the noise they’re making with their voices. That’s what the younger generation should do. Experienc-ing a pandemic has helped many people think about and work on potential future challenges.

It would be great if the youth of Sri Lanka could also think of changing their lifestyles instead of following common trends.

People need to know that working on climate change doesn’t simply mean researching rising sea levels or greenhouse gases. It is also about our daily consumption of junk food and basic lifestyle choices such as the number of brand-new clothes we purchase.

Q: Is there a Sri Lankan climate change activist you wish to work alongside?

A: I have already begun working with Lonali Rodrigo. She’s a climate change activist who is currently trying to promote a circular economy and uplift fashion at a time when apparel has been a major issue in the climate change discourse.


Tharika-Fernando-Living-Magazine-5
“I’d love to spend my days on the
beaches of Thailand to feel calm and gain some clarity.
But I also enjoy getaways to the mountains"

Lifestyle

Q: What is your definition of ‘success’?

A: The ability to be happy and independent.

Q: How would your family and friends describe you?

A: My family would describe me as their naughtiest and most mischievous child! But my friends on the other hand, would say I’m someone they can always reach out to because I am always open to listening to their issues without passing judgement.

Q: You suddenly find yourself stranded alone on an unknown island... what are the five most important things you’d need?

A: Water, the rosary, some snacks, a hat and a notebook.

Q: What is your ideal holiday destination – and why?

A: I’d love to spend my days on the beaches of Thailand to feel calm and gain some clarity. But I also enjoy getaways to the mountains.

Q: If you could become an ambassador for a global cause, what would it be – and why?

A: I am really interested in learning about water governance and working on issues related to it. People must handle work on water related issues diplomatically and work together to ensure safe water access to all.

Q: How would you describe life in Sri Lanka?

A: It’s challenging. Being a female engineer who is working in an area that is male dominated can sometimes be nerve-wracking.

But it is interesting nonetheless; especially when it means we have to work together – regardless of our gender – towards a common goal for the sake of our country.

Q: And how have you coped with the pandemic and related lockdowns?

A: I have used that time to work on different avenues of learning while also widening my network and upskilling myself.

And I participated in several youth related initiatives, volunteered to teach students for examinations and supported many other causes. I also invested time on myself, and spent quality time with my family and friends.

Tharika-Fernando-Living-Magazine-76
"The future of our youth is something I am passionate about and I’m constantly striving to empower them to achieve their goals"

What’s Best

GLOBAL ICONS
Sheryl Sandberg
Malala Yousafzai
Elon Musk

GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE INITIATIVES
Parley for the Oceans
Care International
Project Baala

Tharika’s Favourites

BRANDS
Charles & Keith
fusion 14
Mondy

FOOD
Tom yum soup
Seafood pizza
Chocolate milkshake

HOLIDAY DESTINATIONS
Thailand
Europe
Sinnanagavilluwa (in the Puttalam District) – “Where my very first water project is underway…”

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