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UNFPA collaborates with SL for essential services for women subject to GBV

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From left: Women and Child Affairs Ministry Secretary Ashoka Alawatte, UNFPA Representative in Sri Lanka Ritsu Nacken, Canada High Commissioner David McKinnon, The Sectoral Oversight Committee on Women and Gender Deputy Chair Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle and WHO Representative in Sri Lanka Dr. Razia Pendse - Pic by Ruwan Walpola


By Divya Thotawatte

A workshop on ‘multi-sectoral services responding to women and girls subject to violence’ was held last week to help implement a multi-sector effect to gender-based violence (GBV) in Sri Lanka.

Organised by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs, together with the High Commission of Canada, the two-day workshop was held as a collaborative action to address gender-based violence. The workshop launched the ‘Essential Services Package’ for women and girls subject to violence in Sri Lanka.

Speaking at the event, Ministry of Women and Child Affairs Secretary Ashoka Alawatte stated: “The Essential Service Package is a global tool identifying fundamental and quality guidelines for the delivery of essential services to be provided to all women and girls who have experienced gender-based violence. The package consists of key components of coordinated multi-sectoral services that should be provided by three specific areas which are health care, social services and policies and justice.” 

She also added that violence against women and girls is a grave offense in our society today, and that it is important that we come together to eliminate all forms of discrimination levelled against women and girls. 

UNFPA representative Ritsu Nacken said: “Quality essential services must be effectively provided to guarantee GBV survivors’ access to comprehensive services without discrimination. UNFPA, as one the lead UN agencies in addressing GBV, is committed to working with all our partners to ensure that all women and girls who have experienced violence receive support to recover and seek justice through quality essential services.”

Various agencies, including Government ministries and departments, frontline service providers, UN agencies, civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations participated in the workshop focused on the coordination, effective delivery and quality assurance of essential services.

“We do not have a proper system established to address the issue of gender-based violence. Lack of national GBV data is a major downfall. We don’t have a system to collect relevant data. Only the severe forms of gender-based violence where formal complaints were lodged with the police stations are available. GBV is common, not only globally but also in Sri Lanka. We have to establish a proper system to provide services and also to coordinate the service delivery,” Sectoral Oversight Committee on Women and Gender Deputy Chair Sudarshini Fernandopulle said.

“A study done by UNFPA has shown that 90% of women travelling in public transport undergo some sort of harassment. Lack of reproductive health and comprehensive sexual education in school level is also a major concern,” she added.

WHO Representative Razia Pendse said that more than 50% of women suffer from gender-based violence. She also stated that it is about men and women, and not about men versus women as usually mentioned.

“This event is a key milestone towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in Sri Lanka, and particularly the goal pertaining to gender equality, and a concrete step in Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy,” stated High Commissioner of Canada in Sri Lanka David McKinnon. 

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