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National Policy Dialogue on SRHR in Sri Lanka

December 18, 2015

The Women and Media Collective (WMC) recently launched the Country Profiles on Universal Access to Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health Services during a national policy dialogue. The event was held at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies on Friday, 4 December 2015. The event drew together about 70 participants from the government, civil society, UN agencies, media, medical and health sector personnel as well as female workers from the Katunayake Free Trade Zone.

A brief presentation on the development of the country profile on Sexual and Reproductive Rights (SRR), key findings and recommendations were given to the participants. This was followed by the launching of the profile which was handed over to the panel of speakers, Ms. Vijayakala Maheswaran (Deputy Minister of Women’s Affairs) as well as Azra Abdul-Cader of our partner organization ARROW.

The panel discussion on SRR that followed was moderated by Ms. Kumudini Samuel of WMC. The following panelist made brief presentations and the floor was then open for a lively question and answer session.

1. Dr. Nethanjali Mapitigama, Head of the Women’s Division, Family Health Bureau

The Government’s Perspective on Policy, Programmes and Grievance redress mechanisms for Sexual and Reproductive Rights

2. Dr. Thiloma Munasunghe, Consultant Community Physician

Relating Policy and Law to Sexual and Reproductive Health and HIV/STIs in Sri Lanka

3. Dr. Sepali Kottegoda, Executive Director, Women and Media Collective

Policies and Programmes to Prevent Gender based Violence

The Country Profile on Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) Services was launched after a brief presentation on some of the common myths related to SRH services in Sri Lanka that the country profile sheds light on. The panel discussion that followed was moderated by Dr. Sepali Kottegoda of WMC and was broadly on the gaps and challenges in access and availability of services. The following panelists gave brief presentations.

1. Ms. Madusha Dissanayake, Director HIV/AIDS & Advocacy, Family Planning Association

Services for Persons Living with HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections

2. Mr. Hans Bilimoria, Director, Grassrooted Trust

Sexuality Education and Adolescent sexual and Reproductive Health Services

3. Mrs. Sumika Perera, Coordinator, Women’s Resource

Practical Challenges in Accessing Sexual and Reproductive Health Services

The participants sound the discussion and panel session very useful and many were able to clarify their concerns and express their frustrations related to the SRR and SRH context in Sri Lanka. They also found the Country Profile to be a useful contextual guide and expressed that they will be using the profiles in their work (for example, Human Development Organisation requested 40 copies of the Tamil SRH profile to guide a SRH training they will be conducting). The translations to Sinhala and Tamil were useful as most of the organisations/individuals present work in local languages (sometimes in addition to English).