I am [FOREIGN], I'm from Sri Lanka. And I have a bachelors on social work and I also completed my professional qualification on human resource management. And then I have some extensive experience in working and also volunteering in the field of sexual and reproductive health. I started my volunteerism with the Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka in 2010, and then I started worked for Youth, the Education Network of Sri Lanka, which is called SYPS. And then currently I'm working for United Nations Population Fund of Sri Lanka, coordinating the whole YPN network. And in the meantime, I was selected as one of the youth advisor panel members of the United Nations of Sri Lanka, which was formulated this year. And I'm serving as one of the commissioners for the Lancet Commission on Adolescent Health and Wellbeing, 2014, 2015. The age group, which is commonly referred to young people and elders in Sri Lanka, is that the government follows the definition mentioned in the National Youth Policy. And in that definition it is 15 to 29, the age group is considered as young people and also youth. But we also follow the United Nations common definition of youth, which is 15 to 24. And for adolescence, it's the WHO World Health Organization definition, which is 10 to 19. Those are the common definitions we follow in Sri Lanka. But specifically when we are working in Sri Lanka, it's the government definition which is mentioned in the National Youth Policy which is 15 to 29. I think this definition change according to country and the culture and the sociopolitical context of young people living in country. Because UN definition says 15 to 24 and Sri Lanka definition says 15 to 29, which is quite to the young people in Sri Lanka. Because in Sri Lanka young people still engage in education even after when they're 24, about 24, 25, 26 would be, you know, probably following their masters or, you know, their tertiary education. And also they're looking for jobs. And that specific group also faces challenges and issues, like the young people who are below 24, like unemployment, and access to health services. All those problems are also a major challenge for young people who are between 24 to 29 as well. But in terms of adolescence, I think Sri Lanka at the moment doesn't have a country specific definition of adolescent, but we are following the World Health Organization's definition. So it might be something to think about, like coming up with the adolescent definition on our own so that it would be quite helpful for health services providers and including the government and the community. To focus their work on adolescents and in terms of accessing health services, educations, and all the other issues and challenges faced by adolescents. How the community views young people is also a major concern when we are addressing all the issues and challenges faced by young people. So Sri Lanka has a population of 22 million total, 20 million living inside the country and 2 million working and selling outside the country. And out of the 22 million, 23% compromises a VMP, which is coming on a number of 4.4 million young people as a whole. And then this 4.4 million is the young people who are under the definition of 15 to 29. It's actually a major portion of the whole population. Because in terms of issues like aging, because this 4.4 million would be facing a lot of challenges when the years go by and how all these challenges coming due to all the health problems, and the education, and unemployment. All these problems will be faced by these 4.4 million whenever they grow up. And it's quite important to know how the community views the young people, because In Sri Lanka, it's a multi cultural country. Where a lot of religious, ethnic diversity even takes place when young people grow up. And then especially the definition of young people is important because it's how they grew up and how they start accessing services and then it's actually quite challenging. Like age limit where young people start defining themselves and then,start moving on from the parent, accessing the society, how they face all these challenges from the external society. So I think the community also agrees with the definition given by the government and because 15 to 29 is quite a challenging year. And how they would start living independently rather than depending on their parents or their gatekeepers and how they start building their own identity. Maybe like how to create their own family and, you know, becoming elders and how to become parents, how to take care of their own children. So, I think it's quite important that the community also agrees with the definition given by the National Youth Policy. How the community view about young people is quite interesting because the lifestyles of the communities has changed drastically due to the development of the whole world. They know we've developed as a global village. And then there's access to Internet. There's Wi-Fi everywhere. And there's a lot of information that you can access through Internet and so many services. And then these services prevail for people who access them. And because of this, access and development of the technology and economic and everything, has compromised that the young people are more advantaged than the people who were living before them. And I think the whole society shouldn't look at young people with all these judgements, saying that these people are more advantaged than us. And then they could access information and 20 years before we couldn't access those information. All these judgements might create a lot of stigma and discrimination, especially in Sri Lanka. Because personally, when I was ten years before, I didn't have access to a lot of services. But a lot of friends who are younger than me have access to those information and they're quite advanced in using more this technology, all this equipment, and all these devices. And they can access so many information and services between a millisecond which I couldn't do ten years before. And the people from my parents generation took sometimes years to collect those information. But that's the whole circle of development because it will go on and on. And you cannot actually stop it. So what is acceptable is to stop judging young people because of all these development issues and then looking at them in a supportive way. And maybe to support them mean how to build their lifestyles in a healthy way. How to provide information on their well-being so that they could develop themselves rather than getting lost in all the technological development and the whole competition of developing themselves and running with with each other to win the race of how to live a perfect life. The major concerns for young people in Sri Lanka today, there is from different perspectives and different areas. But basically, when the National Youth Policy was formulated, one year before in the policy we were able to identify a couple of major health issues, sort of like umbrella terms which will cover all these areas. So one area would be the increase of non communicable diseases like diabetes and like different kind of cancers which has been created as a result of non-healthy lifestyles and accessing different kind of food patterns. And another important area would be all the health concerns related to sexual and reproductive health. Sexual and reproductive health is still a taboo topic in Sri Lanka, so a lot of people face, especially young people, adolescents, face so many problems in accessing information and also accessing services related to sexual and reproductive health. And this has created a diverse set of issues related to sexual and reproductive health and also has created so many problems in terms of developing a healthy lifestyle and how to live a healthy life. And it has created a lot of impact on the well-being of young people and adolescents as well. And certain statistics will also say that the highest health concern for young people is suicide and also the roadside accidents, to be totally honest. And maybe another result of all these lifestyle changes has created these incidents. And because of the competition between young people and the peer pressure, the parental pressure, has created a lot of mental pressure towards young people. Which has resulted in so many issues related to mental health, stress, depression, hypertension. All these issues related to the competition created by the environment they live in. So suicide and also self-harm are two results of these competition and all these issues I addressed in the National Youth Policy as in umbrella terms so it cover all the mini and other sub topics which is coming under the main component of health. So Sri Lankan Youth Policy was formulated in 2013. And this was a major achievement by young people of Sri Lanka because it came as result of a lot of advocacy efforts. A lot of lobbying towards the government and the government institutions of placing accepted National Youth Policy to the country. Because from 1970s onwards, the youth policy we had was kind of a draft of one of the policies which was in place in another African country. And then it's obvious that the old demographic details, the culture, the diversity, is quite different from the continent of Africa to the South Asia. So with the support of the government, obviously the National Youth Services Council, the Minister of Youth Affairs, and lot of other institutions working and working for young people has put a lot of effort in coming up with the youth policy. Which covers so many areas and which covers different type of key target groups of young people. And then also have sort of a monitoring and evaluation mechanism and also an implementation process. And all these areas mentioned in the youth policy, which I personally view as an achievement of the people living in Sri Lanka. So there are a couple of strategic areas covered in the the youth policy. Some of them are the unemployment faced by young people, the health and well-being of young people, the education. And also accessing services and information. And the policy has also identified key target groups, which comes with all likely affected populations of HIV, the vulnerable youth groups, and also the out of school youth. The young people who are living in the war-affected zones, and also the state sectarian people, and also specifically young women and the young people living in rural areas are the key Target group of the National Youth Policy. So there was a tremendous effort done by the policy formulation committee, which consisted of the secretaries of all these related departments. Including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Sports and Recreation. And then they formulated a steering committee, which compromised of all these secretaries and the heads of all the organization which are working for and working with young people. And several youth led organizations were also members of the steering committee. So the steering committee conduct a lot of, I would say, need assessment all across the country in the 25 districts. And then they had a lot of evaluations and received feedback from different kind of young people. They actually took a multi-sectoral approach of how the whole society viewed young people and how would they expect the National Youth Policy to be. And then they also conduct a lot of focus group discussions specifically taking the youth priority groups I mentioned before and then how to place their needs and how their needs and wants and what kind of rights they want to be mentioned in the youth policy. So all of these first took place for two, three years and all these results created the terrific youth policy we have in place at the moment. I personally believe that it's a great effort to have our own National Youth Policy in place. Which would create a platform for old age institutions, the government, and the young people to play a critical role in engaging young people in the development of the country and development of themselves as a whole. But as always, there will be a lot of loopholes in the implementation process of the policy and then how exactly the policy would implement. There would be so many questions in whether the implementation process is the same implementation process mentioned in the policy. And also it's a really good practice because, rather than the government or all these institution heads, most of the time who do not belong to the youth, the vision we have at place. And rather than having only the steering committee to the input of the young people themselves. And they included all of this inputs in the youth policy. But it's also important to include young people in the implementation process as well. And as we all know, the development happens and so many factors related to development change everyday. And sometimes you want to update the policies because what you have in place might not be acceptable in another year. There should be a mechanism where the institution which gathers all these changing factors they have to feed all those factors in the policy and the policy should update accordingly to the changing environment. And another good practice in the youth policy is that it came up with an idea of having a youth ombudsman, so that this ombudsman would be a focal point which will gather together the issues faced by the young people, the challenges they face. And also they understand means of addressing these challenges and coming up with strategies which would, again, feed into the policy and then policy would update accordingly. And then I think also the policy is kind of looking at having focal points under the main youth ombudsman. And then these focal points will be placed in different regions, different district in the country so that it would be more accessible for young people to go through the regional focal point and then deliver their conditions, comments, or feedback through the regional focal point to the main youth ombudsman. Probably would be in Colombo, which is the capitol of the country. Sri Lankan health sector is free and that has been a major component in achieving remarkable results for health of the whole population. And in terms of the millennium development goals, I think in this whole South Asian region Sri Lanka has the best indicators. And we have the highest literacy rate of the South Asian region as well. But while those in place, those results being in place, there are major challenges faced by young people in accessing health services and accessing information related to health and well-being. And with my experience in working under the topic of sexual and reproductive health, I think this has been a major challenge for young people given the fact that sexual and reproductive health is a taboo topic because of the cultural diversity. And the religion and the ethic influences young people have on themselves. Specifically talking about the sexual reproductive, highlighting the one major area to be addressed, is the comprehensive sexual education, which is currently not in place on the government education system. We do have a couple of areas addressed under the health component. But then areas like the sexual health, specifically, are not being addressed. And then also the problems faced because of the generation gap, where our young people learn this stuff, from a person who's like, 40, 50 years old. And then actually young people are not quite comfortable relating to that person and clarifying their doubts. And then the lack of awareness on teachers on addressing these issues has also created so many problems because of the stigma and discrimination they have on young people who engage in sex and then who needs to get information. On contraceptives, family planning, basically because they need to protect themselves from the sexually transmitted infections. And then also how to stay without getting pregnant. But then the whole idea of providing contraceptives has been viewed in a very, if you provide contraceptives, then young people would engage more in sex. So the whole concept has created so many problems young people, especially accessing information and secondly, accessing services on sexual and reproductive health.