Globally, today’s adolescents and youth are 1.8 billion strong. Representing a quarter of the population in Sri Lanka alone, they are instrumental in shaping social and economic development, challenging social norms and values, and building the foundation for the future.
While notable progress has been made, many young people – especially adolescent girls – are denied the investments and opportunities that they require to realise their full potential. More specifically, they are a crucial sub-population category who are in dire need of knowledge, information and services related to Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH). The 2021 State of World Population Report by UNFPA highlights that the lack of bodily autonomy and choice have massive implications beyond the individual to societies at large.
To address this, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Sri Lanka partnered with the Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka (FPA) to empower young people with learnings on comprehensive sexuality education amidst the pandemic. At a time when information and services are further disrupted due to COVID-19, it is imperative now more than ever to find means to continue to instil comprehensive sexuality education amongst young people.
As such, the recently concluded youth camp in Galle was the first in a series of 24 camps that will be conducted in each district, engaging approximately 1,200 young persons. The camps have been designed to engage young people in skills training on SRH, bodily autonomy, puberty, gender-based violence and related information and services while dispelling SRH myths and misconceptions.
Speaking about this, Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka Senior Manager Advocacy and Youth Thushara Manoj, who was a trainer at one of the camps stated, “Access to sexual and reproductive health and rights is extremely crucial for young people. As a facilitator of the youth camp, I was happy to have had the opportunity to share knowledge on topics such as menstrual health, contraceptives, sexually transmitted infections and others that are not addressed through mainstream education.”
As a participant at the camps, Ruwanthika, a university undergraduate student stated, “Looking back at my schooling days, we received very little knowledge on CSE. But this camp was an eye-opener. It helped me and my friends understand the concept of SRH, we had the opportunity to openly discuss some of the issues that we have been facing along the way while also dispelling some of the myths and misconceptions we had on matters relating to our bodies.”
Supported by the Government of Japan through ‘Promises’ which is UNFPA Sri Lanka’s project for the improvement of access to information and services of sexual reproductive health and rights and gender-based violence for women and young people.
The youth camps were designed with the overarching goal of ensuring young people have access to age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education through dialogue and interactions while facilitating their leadership skills to ensure that every young person’s potential is fulfilled.