As a Master Trainer on SRHR with YPEER, UNFPA and IPPF I have built capacities of more than 2000 young people across the Asia Pacific region enabling them access to accurate information and services. I have developed technical manuals, modules and glossaries to ensure the sexual and reproductive rights of youth, specially of young key populations and youth with disabilities, are recognized and realized by using innovative tools such as softwares and sign language. As a member of the Lancet Commission on adolescent Health, we published a ground breaking global report highlighting the SRHR needs of adolescents. I contributed as a youth technical advisor to the National Strategy on young people's health of Sri Lanka and served as the SRHR advisor to UN Youth Advisory Panel Sri Lanka.
During my Bachelors on Social work, through research and field work, I realized how young people have been denied of their rights to receive information & services. Youth (specially young women) were not given equal & fair opportunities to influence decisions regarding their lives, rights & development. Access to family planning was further restricted, socially and culturally, as it was considered as taboo. This realization was the spark which made me an activist and an advocate for youth SRHR.
Needs of certain populations are different and difficult to be addressed using general family planning services. Identifying these communities & their special needs have been a major challenge in policy and programming. I was able to work closely with hearing impaired community in Sri Lanka whose access to information and services have been restricted due to not having a SRHR inclusive sign language. Production & dissemination of a Sign Language glossary on SRHR was a step taken to address it.
Most policies and laws in Sri Lanka contain progressive language and recommendations on fulfilling SRHR of the citizens. The challenge so far has been the ineffectiveness in implementing them due to cultural barriers and political agendas. Country needs an inter-governmental committee with youth and civil society reps focusing on the implementation of SRHR policies and to establish a transparent accountability mechanism. Punitive laws on homosexuality & abortion also needs to be relaxed.
The change I wish to see and achieve is to establish a national level accountability mechanism which will ensure the policies, conventions & frameworks on SRHR in place, are implemented creating ripple effects on the lives of every citizen. My vision is to make the structure and functionality of this mechanism youth led, multi-sectorial and human rights based. This accomplishment would be an accelerator in achieving sustainable development and addressing inequalities & social injustices.