The YWCA of Sri Lanka at the World Conference on Youth

By Myrtle Mendis, YWCA of Sri Lanka.

The World Conference on Youth was held in Sri Lanka in May 2014. It was a wonderful opportunity for the YWCA of Sri Lanka to show case itself and increase its net working with a number of organisations and active individuals with common interests and aims. Sarah Arumugam – Programme Director of the YWCA of Sri Lanka lost no time in contacting the organisers and getting involved. For Sarah it was time consuming and hard work but the results proved that it was worth the effort. The National General Secretary – Subhashinie Perera participated in the very elaborate and colourful opening ceremony of the World Conference on Youth. Natalie Raymond from the YWCA of Panadura – a local branch – participated as one of the 100 Sri Lankan delegates, chosen from among over 1000 applicants.

The Peak Experience for the YWCA of Sri Lanka was the parallel event held on the 8th of May titled Faith and Culture Dialogue on Sexual Reproductive Health (SRHR) and Rights and HIV -the co-sponsors being the YWCA of Sri Lanka and the World YWCA. The moderators, Marcia Banasko – Communication Officer, World YWCA and Sureka Wijerupa – Youth Coordinator of the YWCA of Sri Lanka did a great job. The panellists invited by Sarah were highly respected and very knowledgeable persons in their respective disciplines. faith

The event was conducted in a very informal manner so that many were able to express their opinions and share their experiences.

Two Y Peers, Sureni Weerasekera and Champa Kankanagme from the YWCA of Sri Lanka shared the experiences and challenges they encountered as they participated in the workshops on SRHR and HIV. Both of them are new young leaders trained through the YWCA of Sri Lanka Y Peers programme which is funded by the World YWCA Power to Change Fund. Hans Billimoria – Director, Grass rooted Trust presented the cultural barriers and challenges faced in addressing SRHR and HIV to young person’s very vividly based on his findings and experiences. He described a long term plan they have begun to train students in schools through a programme to be included in the school curriculum.

Shuba Kayastha – Programme Officer, ARROW spoke on Breaking down Barriers for Child Marriage. Many realised, may be for the first time, not only the mental trauma but also the physical disabilities and sufferings associated with Child Marriage.

Sarah- from the YWCA of Nigeria speaking on Community Experiences in Advocacy SRHR and HIV detailed further barriers and challenges adding to what Hans Billimoria presented. Sumaya Saluja of Youth Advocacy Core UN Global Education First Initiative spoke of the difficulties faced by Youth Peer Educators as they encountered cultural barriers, highlighting the fact that disseminating accurate information on these subjects need to be tactfully and sensitively handled. UN AIDS – Mikaela Hilderbrand showed how important it was to engage faith based youth groups in global and partnerships to address these issues.

The audience was very appreciative of the programme and took part in the discussion. It was heartening to note that a member of the Sri Lanka Parliament Upeksha Swarnamali was present and assured the YWCA of her support. As senior volunteers of the movement we are happy to see how younger women are growing with the movement. We congratulate Sarah, Marcia and the Programe Team who organised the event.

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