The Government of Japan and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Sri Lanka yesterday signed an agreement, granting $ 1.4 million for improving access to information and services on sexual and reproductive health for women and girls in Sri Lanka. The three year program includes access to services for survivors of gender-based violence, which is crucial for women and girls to fully realise and exercise their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Japanese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Akira Sugiyama stated: “The Government of Japan has decided to contribute 163 million Japanese Yen (approximately $ 1.47 million) to UNFPA, accelerating positive change on gender equality, empowerment of women and girls and respect for their human rights to achieve and sustain peace. Under G7 Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Partnerships Initiative, Japan supports the effort of Sri Lanka, partner country of this initiative in this field.”
UNFPA Representative Ritsu Nacken added: “Universal access to sexual and reproductive health services and information, such as family planning, is at the heart of UNFPA’s mandate. Accurate knowledge of sexual and reproductive health will not only help empower people, but also dispel myths, which have been used to create communal tensions. We appreciate the immense support provided by the Government of Japan for this timely initiative, and we will continue to work towards empowering women and girls in Sri Lanka.”
The program will support the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs and Dry Zone Development.
Health Ministry Secretary Wasantha Perera highlighted the importance of the program: “Sri Lanka has made significant achievements in health services over the years, and has remarkable indicators in comparison with other countries in the region. Sexual and reproductive health, including family planning plays a significant role towards the social and economic development of Sri Lanka. The Ministry of Health is happy to collaborate with UNFPA on this very important project to improve access to sexual and reproductive health for women and young people.”
Research shows that 50% of youth in Sri Lanka have limited knowledge about their sexual and reproductive health, and 35% of married women are not using any form of contraception. Family planning is a contentious issue in Sri Lanka and due to social stigma around the topic; young people have limited access to information and services to make informed decisions about their bodies and lives. As a result, incidents of communal violence in parts of Sri Lanka have stemmed from myths and misconceptions relating to sexual and reproductive health.
The project will aim to address communal violence associated with myths and prejudices around sexual and reproductive health by sensitising the public on family planning being a choice and a human right, and strengthening capacities of youth friendly centres to improve young people’s access to information, education and health services. The project will further strive to increase accessibility and empower women and girls facing sexual and gender-based violence to seek support without fear of stigma or discrimination.