ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday April 13, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 46

Finding a 'youth solution'

By Pink Boxing Gloves

This column tries to bring to light youth issues. In keeping with that vision, I have decided to highlight, not a youth issue, but a youth solution. This commendable attempt to address the sexual and reproductive needs of young people comes in the form of the latest initiative by the Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka (FPASL).

FPASL has a history of over 50 years, having begun its work in 1954. The Association has been working on youth oriented issues for the past 30 years, and the organization's passion for working for the betterment of the lives of young people is visible through the various projects, and initiatives they have undertaken.

What was the vision behind this specific centre? What do they hope to achieve from this? I spoke to a couple of people from FPASL to find out. First to comment was the organisation's current Executive Director, Gamini Wanasekera.

"We came up with this to support the Government's endeavours, and to fulfil our contribution as the pioneer in the reproductive health movement." It's a centre in Colombo, where the services are provided outside a "health environment" such as a clinic or a hospital he said, while adding "We are trying to make this more youth friendly, by learning from the young people how to better the experience."

I've done my share of visiting these kinds of Youth Centres through the years, but there is something different about this place. It does not feel like a typical "Youth Club." There is a computer for surfing the net (which is free, by the way), recreational facilities, and on the service provision side, there is a counsellor and a doctor who would be available at selected times. There is a plethora of information available at the centre in the form of printed material as well.

The focus on young people is not limited to the projects and programmes of the organizations either. FPASL has a quota system in place to make sure that youth are part of the Governance processes. And it's not an organization working in isolation in our little Banana Republic. Its part of a global movement called International Planned Parenthood Federation. Even the IPPF has a significant young component in their global governance structure, 5 of the 30 members of their governance board being under the age of 25.

But what does this centre and the work FPASL does, mean to the young people of Sri Lanka?"We have different types of service provision centres in the country, and some do provide youth-specific services. But, clearly we don't have a one-stop-shop where we can get information or services in a confidential manner. That's what we are doing through this," said Milinda Rajapakse (24) who is the Chair of the Youth Technical Advisory Committee of FPASL. He went on to say that FPASL has a unique structure, where the policies of the organization have a significant youth contribution, and young people are also a part of the implementation of the policies.

He emphasized the one-stop-shop factor of, "A young person can come in for a game of carom, check email, hang out with friends and then meet a counsellor at the Youth Centre."

But, I would leave it to you to judge how this place is. It's located at Bambalapitiya Flats, at LG9. You can call the centre on 2556611, or alternatively visit FPASL on their website at, and IPPF can be visited at Drop into my website and let me know what you think of the place as well, you can find me at the usual place

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