– October 30 2019
Young people in Sri Lanka stand up for their rights
Social Impact: Youth leaving long-term care in Sri Lanka understand the consequences of having a birth certificate with blank spaces where family information should be.
Now, thanks to the efforts of a network of young people that advocates for the rights of care leavers creating a social impact (supported by SOS Children's Villages), this is about to change.
The government plans to allow for a shorter version of the birth certificate – or extract – that contains basic information and does not require information like the father’s name or marital status of the parents. Child rights advocates expect the change to go through sometime after Sri Lanka's presidential elections in November.
“It’s hard for care leavers who have blank spaces in their birth certificate, especially when it comes to their father’s name,” said Nimali Kumari, 29, a founding member of the Generation Never Give Up Network.
Nimali, who grew up in a care home from the age of 10, is fortunate that her birth certificate is complete. However, she knows that missing information can mean the document is seen as invalid. This can lead to problems when applying for jobs and universities. She knows athletes who were blocked from competing because of their incomplete birth certificates.
“Our hope is that soon there will be no difference between the birth certificate of future care leavers and other young people,” she said.
The Generation Never Give Up Network has worked on this issue since their network started in September 2017. The network, founded with the support of SOS Children’s Villages Sri Lanka, has some 130 young people as members, two-thirds of whom grew up in SOS care.
Working on the birth certificate issue, Nimali and other young leaders have been able to get the attention of the Minister of Women and Child Affairs and the Chairpersons of the Parliamentary Caucus on Children. They plan to use their contacts to advocate for other changes as well.
Divakar Ratnadurai, National Director of SOS Children’s Villages Sri Lanka, said there are a number of barriers to young people leaving care, including a lack of aftercare support systems and lack of access to housing.
“These issues not just hinder the progression of young people but act as a barrier for young people to interact with the society productively,” he said.
“Despite all, I’m glad that we were able to contribute effectively for the betterment of young people by supporting their network and giving the young people a chance to speak up,” Mr. Ratnadurai added.
The Generation Never Give Up Network has managed to make some other promising achievements despite having been founded recently. They have handed over a proposal for the establishment of an 18+ Resource Center, and they advocate on key issues such as housing and the establishment of a data collection system to track the progress of care leavers in Sri Lanka.