Granted! Funds For SRHR Capacity Building.

In more exciting news, The British Council was awarding grants for several projects…and guess what, we won one too! Several others including Tracy Holsinger, Ashanti, and Hashtag Generation were awarded grants for similar empowering projects as well.

Our project aims at developing tools and interfaces for girls living with hearing disabilities. We will be focusing our efforts at the Rathmalana School for the Deaf.

Starting from now, the project continues until next March. The work isn’t limited just to the girls—it will also include their teachers, instructors and mentors. After meeting the school’s board of directors, we will develop teacher training materials for the teacher training workshops, which we hope to conduct throughout April to June.

There will be focus group discussions with the children (who are mainly young girls) and their teachers, as we also work on developing material and a digital interface for students, with sign language interpretations on life skills.

We hope that this initiative will help empower girls with hearing disabilities to make informed choices about their bodies, and instill a sense of self-confidence in them. We also want to help create a safe platform for the girls to have conversations about these topics, while sensitizing and enhancing the capabilities of their teachers and instructors with regards to SRHR.

Being experts in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, three of our core group will be implementing the project: Sarah Soysa, Dulitha Jayasekara, and Dakshita Wickremarathne.

If you have any queries, please feel free to drop us a mail at youthchampions.sl@gmail.com , or contact us via FB and Twitter.

 

 

The Plight of the Plantation Sector and how we can Help

As the Youth Advocacy Network, we don’t just advocate for rights. We do what we can to empower people lead better lives. This includes training, mentoring, and spreading awareness—all while having regular day jobs.

One of the projects our co-founder Sarah was recently involved in was to help combat sexual and gender-based violence in the plantation sector of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka already has a Domestic Violence Act, and is a signatory to multiple international machineries and mechanisms. Yet, there is a significantly higher amount of sexual abuse and violence in the plantation sector than in other urban regions.

Why?

Well, there are multiple reasons for this. However, to put it simply, some of the biggest factors are poverty and lack of education. The plantation workers have long been an exploited segment of disenfranchised people. Though they have basic rights now (like the right to vote, and being granted Sri Lankan citizenship), they still have long, hard battles. The daily wage system is especially problematic, in addition to being geographically isolated from basic and necessary infrastructure, and not being able to communicate fluently due to language barriers.

Statistics

Over 31% of women in the estate sector are underweight, as are most of their children. The under five mortality rate is 33/1000 live births as opposed to the national figure of 11/1000 live births.

Additionally, women in the estate sector have extremely low knowledge of gender-based violence, sexually transmitted disease, and related healthcare services.

Alcoholism is rampant in the estates, especially among men. 40% of the estate sector families are drinkers, compared to the 17% in urban and rural areas. This in turn leads to violence in homes.

Estate employees live in line rooms—tiny lodgings with barely any ventilation. They also lack basic facilities. Numerically, only 66.3% have sanitary facilities, 11% has clean drinking water, and 68% of the homes are equipped with electricity.

According to the poverty headcount index in 2012/13, 8.8% of the estate sector families live below the poverty line. 18% of married women between the ages of 15-49 have never been to school.

What can be done to alleviate this?

Community members stated that gender-based violence can reduce if there were effective, and active systems in place. This includes strengthening the police system and enforcing the law properly, getting the support of estate managers in resolving community issues, and ensuring male involvement in discussions.

In addition to this, everyone from children upwards should be made aware of legal repercussions as well.

This includes collective discussions with all concerned authorities. To this end, we organised sessions with

  • Public health midwives
  • Public health inspectors
  • Child development officers
  • Women development officers
  • Government Agents office staff

We covered topics ranging from sex and gender, forms of violence, the current situation in Sri Lanka, fatal and non-fatal outcomes of sexual and gender-based violence, laws and policies, how to respond, and more.

As a result

We can happily say that access to quality SGBV services for community members,
specifically, women and girls, has improved. There’s also an improvement with  Government officers and authorities, in their service delivery
skills on SGBV. They have developed non-judgemental attitudes, especially in  gender-responsive, rights-based approaches.

We did have several challenges; from being able to conduct sessions with the police, to getting permission, and developing a healthy relationship between the authorities and volunteers, especially in breaking the power-hierarchy. Not to mention it was also time consuming! However, we think we have managed to make this project sustainable, at least to a certain extent.

And we are definitely happy that we managed to help empower these communities, in a measurable way.

What we discussed on issues related to SRHR and bodily autonomy of women at the Think Tank

In September 2015 Youth Advocacy Network Sri Lanka initiated the National Youth champions Think Tank on unsafe abortion and network building meeting. The Youth Champions of Asia Safe Abortion Partnership and young peer educators of YPEER Sri Lanka decided to come together and form Youth Advocacy Network Sri Lanka with the focus on young peoples SRHR, bodily autonomy and gender equality.

The think tank had medical professionals, researchers, economists, young journalists, ministry and government representatives, Civil society organisations, National youth bodies, a medical student, a young person living with disability, lawyers and law students present at the meeting. It was such a pleasure for us at YANSL to get participants for the meeting from organisations and bodies such as the Ministry of Health, Family Health Bureau, National Committee on women, Family planning association of Sri Lanka, Women and media collective, Women in Need, The Grassrooted trust, Action Against apathy, Media, National youth services council federation of youth clubs and more.

The think tank was focused on issues related to unsafe abortion – what we as young people can do and what we need the authorities to support us with. The discussions brought up the lack of accurate information for young people on their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and the issues related to a lack of support for health care providers as a result of stigma and legal restrictions. This diverse group of stakeholders and other supporters will hopefully increase the legitimacy of national voices and result in an increase in visibility and a change in the existing law.

Here are some of the key points that were discussed and debated in the meeting.

  • We need to target vulnerable youth and Sri Lanka is identified as a priority country on abortions by FIGO.
  • This is a good time to take the abortion advocacy and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights efforts forward.
  • Issues related to unsafe abortion can be tackled providing accurate information and services to a certain extent.
  • Immediate need for Comprehensive sexuality and relationship education in schools was echoed by many.
  • Workshops with women’s ministry, Media workshops for SRHR and HIV havas been happening and there are several new short films and videos on issues related to teenage pregnancy.
  • The policy paper on unsafe abortion needs to be pushed
  • Gender based violence and challenges addressing violence need to be brought attention through media
  • There has been a research conducted with doctors on abortion law ( targeting 220 doctors) on their perceptions and attitudes
  • We need to find innovative mechanisms to deliver SRHR knowledge
  • Lack of availability of information, less access to research and data make these issues more complicated and hard to write or talk about
  • The young journalists were particularly keen to contact several officials and ministries for interviews, access data, have press conferences.
  • It was also highlighted that journalists and media being more sensitized, ethical and responsible when writing articles related to SRHR and gender equality related issues.
  • It was commonly suggested to identify less progressive arguments and discriminatory myths and misconceptions related to SRHR and unsafe abortion related issues and address them with data on social media.
  • Challenges faced by young advocates and activists in the grassroot level when working on SRHR of young people was discussed in detail where several officials offered their support to deal with some issues specially related to access and information.
  • Importance of having a glossary and reviewing the education curriculum of young people living with disabilities to add more rights based gender responsive sexuality education into their education.
  • Importance of having rights based gender responsive education in medical and nursing schools was highlighted.
  • It was also discussed how we can localize Sustainable Development Goals specially related to reproductive health and gender equality after the goals are adopted.

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BEIJING+20 YOUTH STATEMENT ON SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND RIGHTS AND GENDER EQUALITY SRI LANKA 2015

BEIJING+20 YOUTH STATEMENT ON SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND RIGHTS AND GENDER EQUALITY SRI LANKA 2015

We, as the young people of Sri Lanka, recognize the important achievements in the field of  education and employment opportunities for women since the Beijing Platform for Action  1995. In terms of gender equality, we have also ratified the Convention to Eliminate all forms of  Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) as of October 1981. Sri Lanka also adopted a  comprehensive Women’s Charter in 1993 framed on the principles of equality and nondiscrimination enshrined in CEDAW. Despite all these achievements however, there is a  significant prevalence of discrimination against girls and women. Young women lack the  opportunity to make decisions concerning their own bodies –especially in relation to abortion,  marital law is not discussed, and there is a lack of young, capable women in decision making  positions of power and authority. Young women and girls are victims of discrimination based  purely on their gender. Female unemployment rate is twice that of the male unemployment rate. Approximately 6.3% teen pregnancies are reported every year in Sri Lanka.1 More than 700 unsafe abortions happen every day in Sri Lanka.2 Sri Lanka has the highest rate of sexual  harassment in South Asia where recent research found that 70%of women aged 15-45 had experienced sexual harassment on public transport.

Additionally, in spite of legal measures in place to protect women’s rights, the existence of  social, cultural and religious barriers are prevalent throughout the country, preventing women  and girls from achieving their full potential and making them victims of circumstance depending  on their socio-cultural background. It may seem paradoxical; we have a National Youth Policy in  place, yet we also have laws criminalizing homosexuality, and a lack of Comprehensive Sexuality  Education (CSE) and safe abortion services, except when the mother’s life is in danger. This, and  society’s constricted outlook on the definition of what young women should be like, leads to  very realistic fears concerning the deteriorating status of women in modern-day Sri Lanka.  There is a lack of equality for women in social and political contexts, including where their  health rights are concerned. We believe that implementation of the existing adolescent health  strategy and national youth policy, and approving the Health of Young Persons’ Policy would
resolve most of the existing issues.

Following our advocacy training and youth review of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), 26  participants from government and civil society organisations decided to focus on four key areas  of the BPFA to be given precedence in the Post 2015 development agenda that Sri Lanka will  undertake. Our major areas of concern are Women and Health, Violence against Women,  Women in Power and Decision Making, and The Girl Child.
1. Women and Health
Introduce and provide Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) at school level to all students
regardless of gender, religion and or other factors. Implement the Lessons Learnt and
Recommendation Commission’s (LLRC) recommendations regarding women’s health and rights.
Decriminalize abortion in cases of rape, incest and fetal abnormalities and provide safe,
affordable, accessible abortion, including effective post-abortion care. Ensure and strengthen
the provision of equal, accessible, affordable, comprehensive, confidential, non-judgmental,
and non-discriminatory youth friendly healthcare and information services irrespective of
gender or sexual identity, which includes sexual and reproductive health services (including HIV
and STI services). Provide non-discriminatory service to women who are at an increased risk or
who are vulnerable to HIV and STIs by training health service providers to acquire necessary
skills and attitudes when communicating and/ or providing treatment to vulnerable and high
risk women.
2. Violence against Women
Recognize marital rape as a crime, and emphasize the legal protection which would be given to
women in such instances. Strengthen and ensure the efficiency of the women’s help desk in law
enforcing institutions. Ensure that police officers and state officials receive comprehensive
gender sensitivity training. Implement existing mechanisms to protect vulnerable women from
violence which results from post-conflict situations and religious fundamentalism. Eliminate
sexual harassment in the work place and take immediate disciplinary or legal action against
sexual harassers. Recognize cyber violence and Intimate partner violence as forms of Violence
against Women (VAW). Eliminate Discriminatory practices and legal provisions against women
in land and property ownership.

3. Women in Power and Decision Making

Establish an independent women’s commission that would address and ensure women’s rights
with a fair representation of youth. Ensure participation of women in local government as well
as in provincial and national government, by allocating specific quotas for women, including
reserved seats. Provide cabinet ministry portfolios and allocate a specific quota for female
representation in Parliament, including a 25% inclusion in the National List; urge state run
youth bodies such as the Youth Parliament, to have a supportive environment within their
organization to promote participation of women, while also and empowering them by enabling
them to access positions of leadership. Encourage political parties to pledge for a fair
representation of women within their party, including in the executive positions with an
equitable provision for youth representation. Existing national policies and programmes should
be implemented in a manner which is gender responsive and gender friendly. Establish a
women’s desk at District Secretary level. Provide leadership training to assist marginalized and
women living with disabilities, and to ensure that their participation in decision making
platforms will be effective and meaningful.

4. The Girl Child
Eliminate stigma and discrimination faced by young women and girls in all spheres. Create
supportive mechanisms to provide access to education and health services to marginalized girls,
the group of which include but are not limited to people with different physical and mental
abilities, sexual orientation and gender identities, and indigenous young women. Provide and
strengthen uniform community based networking, child-monitoring and a safe support system
for the protection of victims of violence. Ensure that the school and pre-school teacher and
parent training curricula are gender responsive and includes CSE, while additionally instructing
institutions to ensure its programmes and policies are also gender responsive.

1 The Family Health Bureau. (2013). 2 UNFPA Sri Lanka. ICPD@15 Sri Lanka Review. (2009). 3 Sri Lanka Legal Aid Commission. (2011).

The Beijing POA imagines a world where women and girls can exercise their freedom and choices, realize all their rights & participate in decision making meaningfully. IS THIS A REALITY?

Beijing+20 youth review and advocacy training was an eye opener for me in terms of understanding the Beijing Deceleration and Platform for Action and the 12 critical areas of concern. It made not only me but the rest of the participants also who are activists in different related areas understand the content of the document and the remaining recommendations that need to be implemented in Sri Lanka to empower women. The BPFA imagines a world where women and girls can exercise their freedom and choices, realize all their rights and participate in decision making meaningfully. We all know that Beijing process unleashed a great deal of political will, support and visibility that the governments, civil societies and the public and then the governments have translated the platform actions and recommendations where they promised to act accordingly addressing the issues in concern in their individual countries and to bring a solid change.

10989123_10204767284640367_8905046273804848151_n

Looking at the Sri Lankan context I accept that there had been a great improvement in women’s life when looking at certain areas but still it is questionable and debatable with the rise of certain issues and reported incidents whether Sri Lanka is addressing the issues related to women’s life in the correct manner? Is women’s empowerment a reality? Can the recommendations and actions that have been implemented in the sphere of empowering women make them take meaningful decisions? Can they make their own choices without influence? Do they know what a rights based approach is?is?  10994063_10204767335481638_7578097526018582950_n

Looking at women’s and young girls sexual and reproductive health rights it is largely seen and observed that adolescents girls in Sri Lanka don’t have access to necessary healthcare information and services. Trend towards early sexual experiences are combined with the lack of information and services and this increases the risk of unwanted and early pregnancies, HIV and other STIs and also lead to unsafe abortions. These issues that rise because of lack of access for quality SRHR information and services will push them backwards in achieving a range of educational, economical and social statutes and also this won’t give them the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical or mental wellbeing. Another area of concern under health is the attempts that needed to be taken to eliminate unsafe abortions and to deal with the health impacts of unsafe abortions. Under restricted abortion laws still there are more than 750 reported cases of unsafe abortions that take place in Sri Lanka every day. I personally think that this much of cases are reported because there is a loop hole somewhere that needs to be urgently addressed. The lack of knowledge on contraceptives ends up making women vulnerable and then they finally have to get an unsafe, illegal abortion done.

Concerning only this aspect it suggests that Sri Lanka still has a long way to go! More recommendations need to be added and implemented in the grass root level! Certain policies and laws need to be changed! Real actions and policies needed to be implemented to address women’s health! To empower them! To make them realise their rights! To make them take decisions and make choices related to their own bodies!

Lakmini Prabani Perera- Sri Lanka

Reviewing A Chatbot For To Spread Awareness About SRHR

On June 15, we organised a youth consultation to review a chatbot.

This is an artificial intelligence system functioning through Facebook, called “TALK TO PREETHI”. This safe space creates an opportunity for people to ask questions they have related to sexual and reproductive health and rights, and to find accurate, comprehensive and scientific answers. The chatbot will capture key words of one’s question and will provide automated answer/s accordingly.  The chatbot answers questions ranging from puberty, nutrition, menstrual cycle, autonomy and many more different related topics on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The participants discussed anonymity, safety, accessibility, and content: including how to make the bot more user and youth friendly.

Here, we briefly explain the objectives of the bot, what its limitations are, and what the outcome of the consultancy was.

Objectives of the Chatbot:

  • To review the content of the chatbot developed by Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka, with the funding of UNICEF Sri Lanka.
  • To review how youth-friendly, comprehensive, right-based and inclusive the content actually is.
  • To review whether and how the chatbot can cater to young people and whether the automated questions and answers are the issues and answers that they are really looking for.  
  • To evaluate the reliability and whether the chatbot content will give access for young people in Sri Lanka/ or let them revisit the site regularly to find comprehensive, accurate and scientific knowledge and services of sexual and reproductive health and rights.
  • To inform youth platforms of the initiative and be involved in refining the existing content.

Main Concerns:

  • The name of the chatbot is too conventional and needs to be revised.
  • Realistic and general questions that young people face daily related to SRHR. Also note that the questions would be biased and unique for everyone.
  • Answers and content should be non-judgmental, non-discriminatory and inclusive.
  • Confidentiality secured among the users who access the site.  
  • Pilot testing before launching the chatbot.
  • Language barriers – introducing local languages and even so majority would be comfortable in singlish typing.
  • Make the content less technical and formal, and more youth-friendly

Way Forward:

  • Promote the chatbot among public washrooms, university washrooms and washrooms at malls.  
  • Channel for promotion through Education Ministry and NIE.
  • Promote through CSE projects done by FPA.
  • Through news-line in TV channels.
  • Promote Chatbot by way of youth organisations promoting within and outside their organisations and Universities

Twenty participants from 12 organisations (Bakamoono.lk, Rotaract, Youth Technical Advisory Committee of Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan Model United Nations, Girl Guides Association Sri Lanka, Hashtag Generation, Young Out Here, International Youth Alliance for Peace , Junior Chambers International, WithoutBorders, YANSL members and Volunteers) were present.

Feminism, Catholicism, and Abortion: What Connects Them?

 

We spoke to the Feminist Catholic Network to understand the ethics of consent, and abortion from a religious perspective. In addition to their general statement (parts of which are reproduced below), we have also included a series of questions and answers we had with one of the Network members.

This discusses life vs potential life, consent, mercy, and autonomy. Do feel free to contact us if you require further clarification.

A study undertaken in the late 1990s estimated that 125,000 to 175,000 induced abortions, mostly illegal are performed annually in Sri Lanka. A subsequent study estimated a much higher figure of 658 induced abortions per day, giving an abortion ratio of 741 per 1000 live births. The latest study estimates that in 2007, 8.7 abortions took place per 100 women4. In the year 2013, the percentage contribution from abortion to maternal mortality was around 10%, making it the third most common cause of maternal death. Furthermore, the Police Department showed that in 2015, 80% of all rape victims were girls under the age of 16.

In light of this information and as Catholics driven by love and empathy for those in difficult situations, we object to any barrier that would stop women from making a conscientious choice of their own free will to seek safe, legal medical care.

We also emphasize that the ‘official’ position put forward by a few clergymen of the Catholic hierarchy makes a false representation of the opinion of ordinary Catholics. We strongly object to the campaign they have led against this Bill and find its position antithetical to the call for radical justice and mercy that is found in the Gospels. Instead, we follow Catholic teaching and theology in supporting this Bill for the following reasons.

We support the social conscience of decriminalizing abortion. As Article 6 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, Catholics “not only may but must follow the dictates of conscience rather than the teachings of the Church.” Catholics are obliged to know and thoughtfully consider Catholic teaching, but in the end, a well-formed conscience reigns.

We support the autonomy of women to make conscience-based decisions. We find that the most powerful backing for the autonomy of women itself comes from the many women detailed throughout Scripture, not least Mother Mary. As O’Neill, amongst others, note, “Mary’s consent to carrying, birthing and raising Jesus provides a powerful corrective to rape culture. Mary’s consent is the most important “yes” in salvation history because with that yes Mary bore the child of and participated in bringing to fulfilment God’s plan to redeem the world. God did not send the Holy Spirit to conceive Jesus without Mary’s consent; Mary’s full verbal consent was required and obtained before Jesus was conceived. God waited for consent; and it was not “implied” or “presumed” consent.” Mary’s fiat is a conscious and considered acceptance of what has been offered.

We maintain that life is precious. To this end, we support efforts to address the root causes of abortion-seeking, so we can create a world where every pregnancy is wanted. We support: frank and timely sex education; gender-sensitive, compassionate, non-judgmental support networks for people seeking guidance; psychosocial support in reproductive healthcare; and the Church’s support in addressing national concerns such as gender-based violence in its physical and psychological form.

We reinforce the Catholic principle of mercy. We are against the condemnation of any rape victim to being twice powerless to choose what happens to her body. We are against the psychological torture of women with non-viable pregnancies through denial of safe abortion access. We stand with Article 11 of the Sri Lankan constitution that guarantees that ‘No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’.

The moral problem of abortion is difficult one.

The difficulty:

The moral problem of abortion is difficult because it is unusual. It is unusual both because the human foetus is so unlike other individuals and because the relationship between foetus and pregnant woman is so unlike other relationships.

 Its  unusualness makes it difficult  because we are accustomed to settling particular moral disputes by appealing to general moral principles, a procedure that presupposes a substantial degree of similarity between the question we wish to answer and other questions  we feel we have, at least tentatively, resolved.

Current legal position

  1. Abortion is illegal in Sri Lanka except to save the life of the mother.
  2. A limited amendment to permit it in the cases of rape, incest, serious deformities was proposed but this was opposed by religious leaders lead by the Catholic cardinal.  Not all Catholics agree with this position and we seek to petition the cardinal that the church should not oppose changes to the law.

The big questions:

There are two big questions:

  1. Is abortion morally wrong?
  2. Should it be illegal?

To understand the distinction, just consider this example. Driving on the wrong side of the road is illegal but not immoral. Adultery is immoral, but not illegal.

What are we trying to do:

Abortion involves a conflict between two entities, the woman and the foetus.

How are we to balance the interests and rights of the woman seeking an abortion with those of the foetus who, while not a person and therefore not in possession of moral rights or interests, is nevertheless a living entity worthy of some moral consideration, and whose existence would end ?

  1. Clear cases : women’s life is in danger, the moral consideration is in favour of the woman.
    1. What about cases where the well-being of the woman is serious compromised or threatened? By pregnancy , birth, adoption (medical/psychological risks) even adoption is far from psychologically easy. What of her autonomy and liberty.

What is life?

What is life…is abortion the taking of life?

We don’t value all life equally, plant life or animal life are not considered as important as human life. Sanctity of life: the view that human life is of special value is a moral rather than a factual judgment.

What makes human life different from other forms of life?

When people talk about ‘human life’ they may mean:

  • a member of the biological human species – having the human genetic code.

But they may mean something very different:

  • a being that possesses certain human characteristics in addition to the human genetic code – characteristics often suggested might be the ability to think, to imagine, to communicate

The philosopher Mary Warren’s list of characteristics (not an argument) of human life: 

  1.  Consciousness (of objects and events external and/or internal to the being), and in particular the capacity to feel pain;
  2.  Reasoning (the developed capacity to solve new and relatively complex problems);
  3.  Self-motivated activity (activity which is relatively independent of genetic or direct external control).
  4.  The capacity to communicate, messages of with an indefinite number of possible contents on indefinitely many possible topics.
  5.  The presence of self-concepts and self-awareness.

 Warren claims that: 

  any being who does not possess most of 1-5 is not a human being in the moral sense.

 the more like a person a being is, the stronger is the case for regarding it as having a right to life, and the stronger its right to life is.

   there is no stage of fetal development at which a fetus resembles a person enough to have a significant right to life. 

  a fetus’s potential for being a person does not provide a basis for the claim that it has a significant right to life.  Even if a potential person has some right to life, that right could not outweigh the right of a woman to obtain an abortion, since “the rights of any actual person invariably outweigh those of any potential person”

Life vs Potential life

Extend the status of personhood to human foetuses and infants. A moral status on the possession of potential rather than actual, full-fledged personhood,

  1. We treat them differently uprooting a jack seed is not the same as curring down a full grown jack tree. Plunging an egg into boiling water not the same as putting a live chicken in boiling water.
  2. Can interests and possible rights of merely potential persons outweigh rights of actual full-fledged persons? Future interests and rights v present interests and rights of actual persons? Fully-fledged persons, with their actual interests and rights, ought always to be accorded greater moral significance than merely potential persons and non-persons.

In my view in the early part of pregnancy what we have is only potential life, not life. The simplest test is viability – at what age will a premature baby survive?  In Britain this is 24 weeks – around 80% survive – but with significant risks (Sri Lanka penal code defines viability as 28 weeks) Sri Lanka College of Paediatricians says mortality abt 50-100%.

We Hear You: Kicking Off The Project

 

Sample 01-01.jpgEarlier this year, the Youth Advocacy Network secured a grant from the British Council under the Promoting ‘Voices & Choices’ for Women and Girls in Sri Lanka initiative to provide life skills education through tools and interfaces for girls at Ceylon School for the Deaf in Ratmalana.

Having received the green-light for the project in March, we initially focused on identifying the specific needs of the teachers and students in the school in order to find the relevant tools to bridge the communication gap. Through our interventions we expect that the students will receive a better understanding of their personal hygiene, equality, respect and human rights, as well as help them express themselves better.

As we’ve mentioned before, we hope that this initiative will help empower girls with hearing disabilities to make informed choices about their bodies, and instill a sense of self-confidence in them. We also want to help create a safe platform for the girls to have conversations about these topics, while sensitizing and enhancing the capabilities of their teachers and instructors.

WhatsApp Image 2018-07-06 at 6.37.45 PMJust last week, we completed the introductory sessions to the staff, and had focus group discussions with them.

WhatsApp Image 2018-07-06 at 6.35.43 PM

Linked to empowering women and girls, the expected outcome of this project is to:

  • Enhance knowledge and skills of young girls (50 adolescent girls) with hearing disabilities on Personal Hygiene, Relationships and Respect, Equality and Human Rights.
  • Increase sense of self-confidence in girls with hearing disabilities to make informed choices over their bodies, health and lives.
  • Creating a safe platform for girls with hearing disabilities to have a dialogue about their health and rights using sign language.
  • Develope a systematized hub containing tools, interfaces and materials on above topics made accessible using sign language for young girls with hearing disabilities.
  • Develop sensitivity and capacities of teachers and health instructors working in Ratmalana deaf school built on the above topics

Further details regarding the sign language glossary can be found here:

http://beta.dailymirror.lk/opinion/birds-and-bees-info-for-those-with-functional-difficulties/172-100393

and here:

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/160103/plus/glossary-of-sign-words-for-sexual-and-reproductive-health-launched-176839.html

We Stand Together: In Solidarity With Women Everywhere.

A statement by the Solidarity Alliance for the Right to Safe Abortion, a Global South alliance of six civil society organisations committed to realising the right to safe abortion for all women. 

On 25 May 2018, Irish voters cast their vote in a referendum to decide on whether or not to repeal the Eighth Amendment (Article 40.3.3) of the Irish constitution, which makes abortion illegal by giving equal rights to the unborn.[i] Since 1983 when this amendment was voted in, it has created a highly restrictive environment for safe abortion in Ireland. It has resulted in many women seeking abortions resorting to alternative and costly means.[ii] The existing law allows abortions only when the life of the mother is in danger while accessing illegal abortions can result in imprisonment up to 14 years.[iii]

Between 1980 and 2016, at least over 170,000 women and girls from Ireland sought abortions in other countries. The UK was the destination of choice for a majority of these women, where over 3000 women have accessed abortions in the UK in 2016 alone, a number that is believed to be an underestimation.[iv]

In Ireland, cases such as the Savita Halappanavar, who died due to complications of a septic miscarriage show the urgency for change.[v] Savita, among others, was refused an abortion on request because she was already 17 weeks pregnant and her life was not deemed in threat by doctors.[vi]

Various human rights treaties and consensus documents, have recognised that couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly decide when, how and with whom to get pregnant, have the information and means to do so and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. They have the right to do so free of discrimination, coercion and violence.[vii]

Pro-life arguments position the zygote, embryo or foetus equal to women thereby curtailing her sexual and reproductive health and rights and her ability to make autonomous decisions regarding her fertility.[viii] Denying women access to safe abortion information and services, generally through legal restriction, is another breach of human rights.[ix]

In countries where abortion is legal, available and provided under medical supervision, it is an extremely safe medical procedure with minimum morbidity and insubstantial risk of death.[x] Global abortion trends suggest that the number of women seeking abortion does not decrease with a restrictive legal system, such as in Ireland. In fact, these women resort to seeking an unsafe abortion or opting for illegal means, which are mostly unsafe.[xi] This not only endangers women health due to life-threatening complications arising from unsafe abortion but also has grave repercussions in terms of the financial burden to health systems that are associated with it.[xii] Moreover, compelling women to undergo life-threatening abortion procedures undermine women’s right to health and life and constitutes gender discrimination.[xiii]

The Solidarity for the Right to Safe Abortion calls for:

  • Repealing the Eight Amendment unconditionally.
  • A removal of restrictive laws and policies that prevent the right to safe abortion and minimise quality and safe abortion services as well as restrict women and girls’ access to safe abortion services.
  • A recognition of women’s right to safe abortion as a human right by all parties concerned.
  • Guarantees and protection of all women’s right to life, health, freedom from discrimination, bodily integrity and autonomy.
  • Guarantees of universal access to affordable health care, including sexual and reproductive healthcare services to ensure that women and girls have access and can afford the care they need.
  • Universal access to contraceptive services, including emergency contraception, of high quality and variety, is user friendly and appropriate to the needs of women, including young women.

Endorsed by members of the Solidarity Alliance for the Right to Safe Abortion

  • Beyond Beijing Committee (BBC), Nepal
  • CommonHealth and ally SAHAJ Vadodara, India
  • Naripokkho, Bangladesh
  • Association for Prevention of Septic Abortions Bangladesh (BAPSA), Bangladesh
  • Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia (RHAC), Cambodia
  • Women’s Global Network on Reproductive Rights (WGNRR), the Philippines

Original statement can be found here.

Saturday Church: Movie Screening and Discussion!

On the first Sunday of May, the Youth Advocacy Network had a limited-seating movie screening, followed by a discussion. The movie was Saturday Church, which tells the story of 14-year-old Ulysses, a shy and effeminate boy, who finds himself coping with new responsibilities as “man of the house” after the death of his father.

The event went smoothly, with about 15 people present.

Discussions after the movie were animated as attendees compared it to Sri Lankan contexts. We discussed how Saturday Church (the place) would work in a Sri Lankan context and also how the movie could have depicted sexuality a little better.

We also discussed how LGBTIQ people just want to be loved, accepted and desired sexually sometimes, more than anything else, and of how predators can come in any shape, age, and form. The scene depicting an apparently kindly, middle-aged man offering the protagonist a meal and clothes, and then sexually exploiting him, was used as an example.

After Rape, Every Hour Matters

According to Together For Girls, Hundreds of millions of people—including many children—are subjected to sexual violence, yet very few survivors ever tell anyone about the experience or access health services or mental health support to help them heal. Many do not understand the importance of these services or the fact that, after a rape, every hour matters in preventing potentially lifelong health problems. This is an unacceptable reality we must all work together to change.

Why is rapidly accessing care so critical?

  • HIV can be prevented if survivors receive life-saving medication within 72 hours.
  • Emergency contraception can help prevent a pregnancy if accessed within 120 hours.
  • Medical help for physical trauma may be urgently needed depending on the situation.

If you ever need someone to talk to, reach out to a friend. If that is not possible, Sri Lanka has several free professional mental healthcare services, who should be able to guide and help you.

You can reach out to:
Sumithrayo on 0112692909
Shanthi Maargam on 0717639898 or
CCCLine on 1333infographic

Toolkits, infographics, and more resources are available here: Every Hour Matters

50 Schools Commit To SDG Campaign

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50 schools selected for the SDG Action Campaign received financial grants and technical support at an event held in Colombo last Thursday (05 April).

The Campaign for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is led by the UN in Sri Lanka together with the Ministry of Education in partnership with Hatton National Bank and the Presidential Secretariat in an effort to reach out to school students from across the country to design and implement an SDG based project in their communities.

The launch of these Goals, created a landmark moment in creating a much better world without leaving no one behind by 2030. However, achieving these 17 SDGs is everyone’s responsibility.

Speaking about the students’ role in contributing to the SDGs, Secretary to the Ministry of Education, Government of Sri Lanka, Mr. Sunil Hettiarachchi stated, “This student-led campaign shows good potential to serve as an excellent platform to pave a path towards achieving the SDGs in Sri Lanka”.

Since the launch of the campaign on 24 October 2017 commemorating UN Day, over 700 schools submitted their proposals and upon evaluation by the partners of the campaign, 50 SDG-centered proposals were selected representing the 25 Districts of Sri Lanka. These schools will now be linked with relevant experts and institutions, enhancing the students’ capacity to mobilize the communities around to help Sri Lanka achieve the SDGs.

Speaking about the Campaign, Director, ILO Country Office for Sri Lanka and the Maldives and the UN Communications Group Chair., Ms. Simrin Singh stated “Taking action for the SDGs is a collective effort. From the youngest student to the most experienced teacher, schools play an important role in spreading the word that everyone has a responsibility. The question is no longer if you want your classroom to connect to the world; the question now is simply when.”

Engaging youth is vital to Sri Lanka achieving the sustainable development to eradicate poverty, address climate change and build peaceful, inclusive societies for all. These projects will help students raise awareness of the SDGs in their communities and also contribute to the 2030 Agenda. In this regard, ensuring the sustainability of these projects is imperative.

Information and images courtesy of UN Sri Lanka.