Communication Builds Collaboration. Member Spotlight: Veerash Srikison

Veerash has many people in her family that come from the litigation field. But she is the first to break out from the adversarial approach by being a mediator. As a lawyer, she noticed that there is a tension between law and mediation. With the law, there is the perception that a lawyer is here to decide for their clients and make all the decisions, whereas mediation is more about giving back power to the clients to make the final decision. She felt that this is especially important because the clients will live with those decisions for the rest of their lives, not the lawyer/mediator.

Background on Veerash

Even though she started her career as a lawyer, she turned to mediation as a more appropriate dispute resolution process because of one particular case which made her realize that because of the ‘winner takes all attitude’ in litigation, the imbalances of power between parties in disputes were not being adequately addressed. Seeing how many of her clients’ lack of resources and abilities to speak up was negatively impacting their outcome in the dispute, she started to research ways to bring the voices of people including that of children, who aren’t heard fully, into the dispute arena. That is how she encountered mediation in 2009/2010. Through mediation, she found a safe environment that allows everyone equal opportunity to speak, be heard and address the impact of emotions in a dispute.

Since then, she has constantly improved her skill and knowledge with continuous education in mediation and negotiation skills gaining accreditation throughout the world. According to her “we are always learning”. She uses her knowledge and experience to deliver interactive courses in mediation and negotiation to new mediators from all professions. She also delivers masterclasses in mediation including topics on Unconscious Bias and Mediation Advocacy lectures to legal professionals.

The children in her family and those she encounters at workshops she does at schoolsare the ones that inspire her in her everyday work: “they’re the next generation of upcoming peacemakers, so I want to create that legacy, let them know that we all have a voice and to no longer be accepting when people say “be quiet, you don’t matter””.

About Fair Practice

Veerash founded her organization Fair Practice in 2013. The organization’s title already says a lot about the practice they offer: Even if the world is unfair, as mediators, the way we behave has to be fair to the parties, the outcome belongs to the parties, but we have to have high standards of ethics and practice.” Therefore, Veerash insists that it’s essential to be trustworthy and make sure that the clients understand they have been given the best tools to reach their desired outcome. Fair Practice touches on diverse work areas such as mediation, disciplinary hearings, training, workshops, and conflict resolution wellness through a cost-effective process. The Fair Practice motto is “Communication builds Collaboration” thanks to her several years of experience in mediation, she learned that mediation should not be seen as a soft approach that leaves the parties feeling hopeless instead mediators must work hard to guide parties to a middle ground of resolution constructively.

Veerash insists that there is a special place for mediation in South Africa. Sometimes we tend to forget that mediation is not necessarily a westernized concept but that indigenous communities in Africa have been using this method for centuries. Nowadays, South Africa is moving towards more collaborative approaches, which gives excellent hope, especially when we look back at South African history, where many people were excluded and marginalized. This improvement finally allows those who weren’t allowed to speak up for themselves: “It’s a relief to be heard, it minimizes the oppression that people felt by giving them a chance to contribute to decisions made about their lives, and it is so needed in Africa right now because of discrimination, racism, inequality and patriarchy. that silences so many important voices in a dispute. Mediation brings inclusivity to the process”.

About MBBI

According to Veerash, there is this common goal of respect amongst fellow mediators for each other’s cultural differences and backgrounds. She is involved with the African Rotary Community Mediation (ARCoM), which collaborates with Mediators Beyond Borders International, where she contributes with her African perspective. Through this project, she helps build an environment of peacebuilding within communities.

Advice to young mediators:

Veerash advises any new mediator to be open-minded and be able to grow in your capacity as a mediator and learn new ways/approaches to resolve any dispute. She also thinks that protecting the trustworthiness in a relationship whether it is between parties, or party and mediator as a way of building your brand as a mediator is crucial.

Communication and curiosity is at the heart of mediation: “communication works in every sector regardless of social standing, economic status, and access to resources, and as a mediator, if you hone in on learning how to communicate effectively to move parties from adversarial to amicable, you can work in every sector because we all communicate and want to be heard as human beings regardless of what the conflict is. As a mediator, communication and trust are your superpowers, to not just get the parties to trust you and the process but to also get them to trust each other to make realistic decisions. It is hard work being the mediator, but it is worthwhile endeavor”.

Finally, her last advice is to continue learning because it is a never-ending process, just as she is still doing after 12 years of starting her mediation journey. “Never underestimate the value a mediator brings to the dispute just by being a willing listener, an informed and knowledgeable facilitator and a peacemaker”.

Article by Sarah Vorms, MBBI Writer