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Sarah Soysa

Sarah Soysa - 2016 Nominee
Position: Steeting commitee member, Sexual and Reproductive coordinator for Sri Lanka
Organization: Asia Safe Abortion Partnership, Doctors of the World
A feminist & an advocate on Gender and development with a special focus on Sexual & Reproductive Health Rights. Has experience working with and volunteering with national, regional and global organisations & networks like IPPF,YWCA,FRIDA,ASAP & CYGEN – Nominator
Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.

I was the chairperson for the Youth Advisory Committee of Family planning Association of Sri Lanka and then later became the Assistant secretary of the governance board of FPASL providing a youth & a Gender perspective to the work of FPASL (IPPF).I was also a national rep for South Asia Regional Youth Network of IPPF for 3 years & then worked with YWCA of Sri Lanka as a project coordinator for the SRH Peer education programme. I was a peer educator on SRHR & gender for YPEER (UNFPA Sri Lanka) since 2010 & now works with Doctors of the World as the SRH Coordinator in the plantation sector & post war affected areas with medical service providers,teachers,young women & girls.I have contributed to various IEC & BCC materials. I'm a part of & initiated many advocacy forums nationally & globally

What sparked your passion for family planning?

SRH and family planning is a taboo in Sri Lanka and it was frustrating to see the number of young women and girls suffering as a result of lack of accurate information and access to non judgmental services. It was sad to see the violence in relationships, teenage pregnancies and unsafe abortions both in school and out. My social work background and volunteer work with FPASL and certified girls school in Sri Lanka made me passionate and driven to speak out, create a change and spread the message.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your family planning efforts, and what have you done to overcome it?

The biggest challenge is gaining trust in communities & attitudinal change.Gaining trust could be difficult when you are a young & also the ability to meaningfully contribute for policy advocacy could be hard when youth are tokenistic. Without imposing values on others,discussing the issues of communities & intervening with facts, data & case stories have always being effective when dealing with communities. Building good partnerships &field experience helps be a better advocate in policy forums

What is your (country/region/city)’s biggest challenge in family planning, and how can it be addressed?

In Sri Lanka the biggest challenge is not having comprehensive sexuality education in schools &also not having trained teachers to teach the existing content. Sex is a taboo therefore access to services and information by young people is very low. The attitude of medical service providers & lack of counseling, psycho social support are some others that fuel this situation. It is important to provide non judgmental services to youth and accurate information breaking barriers in schools & at home.

What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years?

I wish to see a change in teachers to teach sexuality & relationship education through the work I do &strengthen the discourse in Sri Lanka & be a part of changing legal restrictions on unsafe abortions.Through my work attitudinal change of medical service providers & broadening access to reproductive health services is another goal.To make use of my Masters in Gender & Development studies I would also like to contribute to evidence building by reporting & collecting data to fill research gaps

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