Last year was one of the most satisfying years for UNFPA Sri Lanka in terms of output and achieving goals. Keeping pace with digital trends to stay relevant and to ensure that our reach remains as far and wide as possible, we launched the first ever trilingual mobile application on sexual rights and reproductive health in Sri Lanka; the app was specially designed for the visually impaired. We’ve ensured that each generation is involved in policy recommendations, and we made a decisive shift to collect and work with evidence-based data.
Country Representative, Alain Sibenaler elaborates, “In 2015, UNFPA in Sri Lanka made several strides on various fronts, from establishing dedicated women and children’s units at every Divisional Secretariat in the country to creating a space for discourse and dialogue on youth with our Generation to Generation Dialogue. From reaping the rewards of a demographic dividend to launching a trilingual mobile application on sexual and reproductive health for those with disabilities; from policies on paper to practical action, some of the works of UNFPA are easily identifiable when they appear in the form of comprehensive guides, community awareness programs and events.”
He further adds, “At UNFPA in Sri Lanka, we wanted to be data-wise; to rely on data just as much as we do on evidence. To decipher it, analyze it and interpret it in ways that makes our concepts and policies realistic, meaningful and sustainable. Take for instance our work on Gender-based Violence (GBV). In 2015, UNFPA adapted its programs and activities to suit a new reality. It was much harder to work upstream but it had to be done. We knew there was a high prevalence of GBV but we did not have baseline data and evidence. We wanted to know exactly ‘how’ and ‘why’, and data answered those questions for us.”
Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo, Professor Lakshman Dissanayake believes it’s highly commendable that UNFPA Sri Lanka plans to use evidence-based data. He added that “data should not just be discussed in classrooms” and as demographers it was necessary to analyze evidence-based data and find ways to use it in practice. “We need to look at how to use the data for population dynamics.”
Alain explains how we’ve been using evidence-based data, “We’ve extended our mandate to include data driven change to the core of every project. As our work unfolds, we must also continue to address new challenges related to population demographics, rapid urbanization and migration. To create a sustainable future, where everyone can fulfill their potential, requires that we promote health, cultivate human capacities, and commit to individual dignity and human rights for every person, everywhere.”
One of the most vulnerable groups that face the worst forms of GBV are women who head their households. Executive Director of Viluthu Centre for Human Resource Development, Aaranya Rajasingham, who has been working closely with women head of households in war affected areas says the UNFPA’s working in chipping away at the boulder that is GBV is invaluable. “UNFPA has been instrumental and invaluable in countering GBV. The organisation functions as an enabler of change and a communicator to drive the crucial issues forward. UNFPA being the chair of the Gender Theme Group is effectively strengthening the role of female headed households.”