Jaffna, 19 September 2016: With a youth population of almost 4.4 million in Sri Lanka, it is imperative to ensure that comprehensive youth policies are implemented at both National and Provincial-levels in the country, given the regional disparities in the issues faced by young people. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Sri Lanka, through its Youth Policy Programme, works with all Provincial Councils in the country to bring together multi-stakeholders to formulate comprehensive Youth Policies at Provincial-level that also take into consideration Sexual and Reproductive Health of young people.
Having carried out stakeholder consultations as part of the Youth Policy Programme with the Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council and the Southern Provincial Council earlier this year, UNFPA Sri Lanka organized a stakeholder consultation with the Northern Provincial Council and the Provincial Ministry of Education, Cultural Affairs, and Sports, and Youth Affairs, on 19 September 2016 in Jaffna. At the consultation, stakeholders from diverse sectors came together to discuss and identify challenges and issues faced by youth in the Northern Province, with a focus on the thematic areas of education, employment, and health.
Delivering the Keynote Address at the event, Chief Minister of the Northern Province, Hon. C.V. Vigneswaran, said: “There is a clear gap between the education received by students and the skills required by our youth that job providers expect them to have. We should take right measures to address this issue. Formulating a youth oriented policy in provincial level is a timely action to empower our youth.”
The event was also graced by the Provincial Minister of Education, Cultural Affairs, Sports, and Youth Affairs, Hon. T. Gurukularajah. In his address, the Minister emphasized on the importance of ensuring Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) is part of a comprehensive youth policy: “Sexual and Reproductive Health should be considered as an important factor when formulating a youth policy for the Northern Province. The importance of educating students on this is not clear even among teachers. We must understand that providing proper understanding of sex education to youth will help us reduce teenage pregnancy and related issues. We thank UNFPA for stepping at the right time and for creating the space for formulating provincial-level youth policies.”
Speaking at the event, the Secretary of the Provincial Ministry of Education, Cultural Affairs, Sports, and Youth Affairs, Mr. R. Raveenthiran, said, “UNFPA Sri Lanka has worked with two other provinces in supporting the drafting of Provincial-level youth policies. Their expertise and experience in this process will help the Northern Province to formulate a comprehensive youth policy.”
In a message about UNFPA Sri Lanka’s Youth Policy Programme, Mr. Alain Sibenaler, UNFPA Representative in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, stated: “At UNFPA, we strive to deliver a world where every young person’s potential is fulfilled. This part of our work is of tremendous importance. We have embarked on innovative approaches to tackle a crucial area of youth development, working with all Provincial Councils in the country. In the North, our work will be ever more important given the stark contrasts and worrying indicators in teenage pregnancy, sexual and gender based violence, drug abuse, and youth unemployment.”
Participants at the stakeholder consultation of the Northern Province included officials from the Northern Provincial Council, UN Agencies, academia, resource persons, and youth from universities and schools from the Northern Province. The issues identified during the consultation were further discussed the following day, on 20 September 2016, by an appointed Steering Committee comprising of technical experts and policy-makers. The steering committee decided to share the draft recommendations with the public to receive further input in the formulation of a comprehensive youth policy for the Northern Province.
In addition to convening the space for provincial-level dialogue, as part of the programme, UNFPA Sri Lanka also provides technical expertise on access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Services for youth, associated rights, comprehensive reproductive health education and taking action to address gender-based violence in the community, through the Steering Committee that works towards formulating the provincial-level draft youth policy.
Youth Policy Programme Pre-brief (Northern Prvince)