Colombo, Sri Lanka -- UNFPA Sri Lanka, in partnership with the Ministry of Youth Affairs (MoY) of the Sabaragamuwa province, organized a two day Stakeholder Consultation on Youth Affairs, on 16 and 17 July, 2016, in commemoration of World Youth Skills Day.
A day to recognize the importance of skills development for youth was suggested by Sri Lanka, and keenly adopted by the United Nations.
UNFPA Sri Lanka is committed towards enabling youth to achieve their full potential, and in order to achieve this, it is necessary that the right policies are set in place to encourage youth to be the best they can.
Sabaragamuwa is the second province UNFPA will be working with to improve and develop policies for youth. The consultation on 16 and 17 July, brought together key stakeholders such as Hon. Athula Kumara Rahubadda, Minister of MoY who actively participated in the consultation, National Youth Services Council (NYSC) Provincial Director, Kusum Kumaranayake, Vice Chancellor of the University of Sabaragamuwa Professor P. Udawatte, Principal of Galkanda Central College (GCC) Neel Wathukuruwatte, students from GCC, several university students and resource persons well established the fields of health and medicine, law, education, and economics.
The consultation was based on these four areas with regard to the challenges faced by the youth in the Sabaragamuwa province. The discussion covered reproductive rights, gender-based violence, entrepreneurship, and education.
Resource person, Ajith Ranasinghe, Sabargamuwa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said "Entrepreneurship is viewed as something negative in the Sabaragamuwa province; so much so that most young people steer clear of entrepreneurship opportunities". He stressed on the importance of helping youth in the province understand the opportunities entrepreneurship can open for them.
A key issues in education, that were mentioned several times during the consultation was the use of technology for education and awareness building among youth. The younger participants felt that those who develop the policies do not understand the impact modern technology and social media can have on the public.
Sabaragamuwa Undergraduate of Sport Science Teaching, Annuradha Bernard, said that techniques in Sri Lanka are archaic. "It's a teacher or lecture speaking to a class of 40 to 100 students. There is almost no interaction between the student and teacher". She added, "Sri Lanka needs more creative ways to educate students".
The session on reproductive health, conducted by Dr. Azmi Thaibudeen - HIV AIDS Advisor and doctor at the Ratnapura General Hospital- covered several topics; STI's, HIV AIDS, gender-based violence, rape, sex workers, and homosexuality in Sabaragamuwa.
According to Dr. Thaibudeen, Advisor on HIV AIDS and doctor of the Ratnapura General Hospital, there are on average 14 cases of abuse and 800 illegal abortions at day in Sri Lanka. Ratnapura is the third highest area in Sri Lanka for child abuse.
On day two, 17 July, draft recommendations were drawn from the workshops, and compiled for new policies or amendments to be made to existing policies for the youth of the Sabaragamuwa province.