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A Journey Towards Gender Equity and Gender Equality – An inter-university youth festival

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (22 February 2018): Every young person will one day have life changing decisions to make about their sexual and reproductive health. However, research shows that majority of adolescents lack the knowledge required to make those decisions responsibly, leaving them vulnerable to coercion, sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies.

Sri Lanka has a youth population of over 4.4 million who are between the ages of 15 – 29. Yet, 50% of young people are unaware about sexual and reproductive health issues. It has been reported that youth knew about their own reproductive systems but were unaware of the reproductive systems of the opposite sex.

One of the main reasons for this gap of knowledge lies in the lack of age appropriate Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in and out of school. Hence it is important to engage with parents and teachers to provide young people with accurate and age-appropriate information about their sexual and reproductive health. Recognizing this need, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Sri Lanka advocates for CSE within a framework of human rights and gender equality and in line with the International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education.

In light of this, on 22 February 2018, UNFPA joined an inter-university youth festival - ‘Journey towards gender equity and gender equality’ conducted by the University Grants Commission. The three-day festival held at University of Kelaniya brought together over 100 youth from universities across Sri Lanka. The youth festival was designed to create a space for young people to learn and discuss about the various aspects of gender and gender equality through creative expression. It was an opportunity for youth to identify and reflect on how they can be effective drivers of change in advocating for gender equality.



UNFPA supported the festival through its own stall ‘Love and Peace’ which had a ‘Love Cinema’ to raise awareness on the importance of CSE among youth. Students also had the opportunity to complete ‘Road to Adulthood’ - Sri Lanka’s first trilingual e-tool for young people to learn about reproductive health and rights ( In addition, UNFPA also highlighted the importance of inclusive sexuality education, especially among differently abled individuals and youth through the ‘ABLE APP’. The App creates a space for differently abled individuals to obtain information on sexual and reproductive health, considering that there are over 1 million people in Sri Lanka who are differently abled, most being visually impaired.



Ms. Ritsu Nacken, UNFPA Country Representative, who attended the festival stated: “Comprehensive Sexuality Education goes beyond information, helping young people to explore and nurture positive values regarding their sexual and reproductive health. This education includes discussions about family life, relationships, culture and gender roles, and also addresses human rights, gender equality, and threats such as discrimination and sexual abuse to help young people fulfill their potential.”