Respect every life | Daily News


 

Respect every life

To celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International day for Human Rights, the French Embassy, the French Agency for Development (AFD), Medecins du Monde (MDM) and Alliance Francaise de Kotte organized the press conference - Sexual and Reproductive Health For All.

Medecins du Monde as implemented in Sri Lanka in 2016 as a 30 month project, co -financed by AFD, aimed at improving access to qualitative SRH services and advocating for the integration of the plantation healthy sector within the public health system.

70 years ago, the General Assembly of the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating that all women and men must enjoy free and equal rights. Kofi Anan said – “These rights do not belong to any government and they are not limited to any continent, because they are inherent to humanity itself.”

Ambassador of France in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Eric Lavertu commented it is a matter of pride for him to be able to be present at this event that is convened to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and stated that this event further strengthens the ties between Sri Lanka and France.

“Alliance Francaise is a symbol of the bond between Sri Lanka and France and our shared values. This Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that all humans enjoy the same rights and it is not limited to caste, gender or religion. This protects and respects all human beings. This event wishes to highlight the efforts taken by Medecins De Monde, an NGO that has taken vital steps to promote human rights in Sri Lanka. This project aims at addressing a fundamental aspect of Human Rights which is the Sexual and Reproductive Health for all. France respects Human Rights and regards it as a feature of a developed and civilized society. This event tries to spread the message of the importance of respecting a human being’s body and the importance of fighting sexual discrimination,” said Lavertu.

Lavertu stressed that we must remember that Human Rights must be respected and any violation of human rights is unpardonable. This should be a powerful reminder to the international community. Lavertu pointed out, that for this, spreading awareness is important, and the goal of the press conference is that generation after generation will never forget.

French Agency for Development in Sri Lanka, Country Director, Martin Parent stated that gender inequality and gender based violence must be addressed and the message that it is not acceptable needs to be carried to every section of society.

“We must not be pessimistic and forever be vigilant when it comes to protecting women’s rights. We need to focus on solutions. Communities need to take control of their future. And this is the future they wish for their children. We must be grateful for Medecins De Monde for the work they are doing in Sri Lanka, fighting for the rights of all human beings. This project is without doubt very important,” said Parent

Medecins du Monde, Country Representative, Pauline Heritier Laffargue pointed out that the response Medecins De Monde has received so far is very encouraging. Such an event like this press conference is very motivating and helps a lot in the completion of their work.

“This project aims at improving the quality of Sexual and Reproductive Health services and also addresses the issue of gender based violence in the estate regions. Also the issue of sexually transmitted infections is also discussed. We have faced challenges and difficulties but we are going on bravely. We wish to see positive outcomes for all our efforts. We would also like to involve men in our efforts because their participation is also important. There needs to be a discourse and these subjects must not be treated as taboo. There is still hope and we are going to break all barriers,” said Laffargue.

Medecins du Monde, Sri Lanka Mission, Medical Coordinator, Dr. Norie Omamalin said that at first the start was slow and at the beginning there was hesitation. She also pointed out that these subjects are also very sensitive and that talking about it at first was difficult.

“It took a lot of time for the people to trust us. The implementation was somewhat delayed because of this. So it took a lot of time getting them to talk. The people we worked with initially were very cautious and very hesitant. Getting men’s engagement in the project was also challenging in the beginning. Since the men were also away in the plantations working, accessing them was a problem because we conducted our research in the day time. So we strategized when it came to getting men’s engagement because that is the crucial determining factor – getting men’s engagement and getting through to the boys,” said Omamalin.

The general attitude at the press conference was that alcoholism and drugs are other problems and violation against women can be linked to them.

“Poverty is also a problem. Because of the conditions such as lack of space in the house where people need to share rooms and no accessibility to water and electricity, all this contributes to the problem. It creates tension and we are trying to tackle this issue in the communities. This project is very gender sensitive and we must not neglect the men and the boys. We have now understood the need to get men and boys aboard with us,” said Omamalin.

The statistics revealed at Alliance Francaise de Kotte recently are shocking and mortifying.

In 2012 teenage pregnancy in Sri Lanka hit 384,000 (According to the Family Health Bureau)

Every quarter 50 or more new cases of HIV are detected (According to the National STI/AIDS control program 2016 – 2017)

Every 90 minutes a woman is raped in Sri Lanka

Everyday 3-5 children are raped in Sri Lanka (According to UN Survey on Violence Against women 2013)

Only about 50 percent of both in School and Out of school adolescents are aware about STIs and HIV/AIDS ( According to the National Survey on emerging issues in Sri Lanka 2014)

There are an estimated 650 abortions performed daily in Sri Lanka (Family Health Bureau 2016)

Sexual Abuse and Harassment is on the rise. Sri Lanka has the highest rate of sexual harassment in South Asia. (According to Legal Aid Commission 2011)


The audience at the event . Pictures by Sarath Peiris


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