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Sunday December 3rd, 2023

Worsening period poverty in Sri Lanka threatens to keep female students home: MP

ECONOMYNEXT – Fifty-percent of Sri Lanka’s female student population is hesitant to go to school during their period, with the country’s prevailing currency crisis worsening the already debilitating effects of period poverty, an opposition legislator said.

Main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Rohini Kaviratne said in a Twitter Space discussion on Wednesday September 21 that more families have been affected in the last seven months.

‘Period poverty’ refers to difficulties faced by low-income women and girls in accessing menstrual products. Citing a recent study, Kavirante said in the discussion, organised by Sri Lanka parliament’s communications unit, that many students are missing school due to their inability to acquire proper sanitary napkins.

The prices of sanitary napkins skyrocketed from March to September of 2022 with the country facing a severe currency crisis amid tax hikes on imported products. As of September, the price of a 15-napkin pack ranges from 350 to 800 rupees in the market.

“If we take households with females between 12 and 49 years of age, 50 percent of those families are affected by period poverty,” said Kaviratne.

Also taking part in the Twitter Space was Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, who in the same discussion justified the higher tax on sanitary pads claiming that it incentivised local manufacturers.


Sri Lanka’s health minister justifies high taxes for women’s sanitary pads

Kaviratne said the average price of a sanitary napkin pack is around 500 rupees, which is equal to the price of two kilos of rice, forcing families to sacrifice women’s hygiene for more food.

“On average, one female needs around two packs a month, roughly costing around 1,000, rupees, which is equal to four kilos of rice. In a crisis like this, families have to prioritise,” she said.

President Ranil Wickremeseinghe has already instructed the authorities to provide sanitary napkins to female children in schools free of charge, said the MP, requesting the health minister to see that the directive is implemented.

Responding to the minister’s remarks on the higher tax, the SJB MP said more brands should be imported into the country in order to create a competitive market, providing the advantage to the consumer and the ability to purchase sanitary products at a reasonable price.

“We have a limited number of sanitary napkins that we import. We need more brands to be imported in order to create competition in the market.

“The same goes for the locally manufactured products,” she said.

Minister Rambukwella, meanwhile, said proposals have been made by several interested parties to launch a low-cost sanitary pad manufacturing process in Sri Lanka, similar to what was initiated in Tamil Nadu by inventor Arunachalam Muruganantham of ‘Pad Man’ fame. Such a project could also bring income to low-income families, he said.

“Some ladies also came and met me. I asked my two daughters to meet them and discuss it, and we are trying to see whether we can do it here and produce cheap but very effective sanitary napkins. I too think we must discuss this openly and use alternative arrangements that are even more sophisticated,” he said. (Colombo/Sep22/2022)

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Sri Lanka UGC wants to boost number of IT-related degrees

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s University Grants Commission is of the view to boost the number of Information Technology (IT) related degrees in state universities with an aim to pave the way for a digital economy.

Sri Lanka’shigher education system has been producing more graduates in Arts stream while the degrees in highly demanded IT and other engineering services are being looked at only now.

“We do have a high demand for engineering, science, AI, computer and electronical engineering

studies,” Chairman of University Grants Commission, Sampath Amaratunga, told reporters at aa media briefing on Friday

“However, while avoiding neglecting the humanities, we should develop new IT skills.”

Amaratunga confirmed that a student who studied in any stream could obtain an IT degree, including students who studied in the arts stream.

The UGC data show that out of 18,490 engineering technology stream students who sat for their Advanced Levels (A/L) in 2022, 10634 were eligible for university.

“Even streams like agriculture should be encouraged to use technology,” Amaratunga said. (Colombo/Dec 2/2023)

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Sri Lanka leader inaugurates Climate Justice Forum at COP28 in Dubai

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe launched Climate Justice Forum (CJF) at the ongoing 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) held in Dubai in a move to gather support for vulnerable nations hit by climate-change led disasters.

This year’s climate summit held in Dubai’s EXPO2020 features a raft of issues for countries working to find common ground in tackling climate change, including whether to phase out fossil fuels and how to finance the energy transition in developing countries.

Wickremesinghe inaugurated the Climate Justice Forum at COP28 on Saturday and emphasized the critical importance of addressing climate issues with a sense of justice and equity.

The President had been in talks with many nations vulnerable to climate change disasters including African and South American countries to get their support for the CJF.

The move is to compel advanced and developed countries to look into the poor nations hit by the climate changes and help them to get over economic and debt burdens by either investing more in green energy initiatives or writing off debts to ease financial pressure.

Sri Lanka, which is now facing an unprecedented economic crisis, has seen increasing losses and damages, both human lives and physical properties due to climate change-led disasters like floods, drought, and earth slips.

In his speech at the COP28 forum, Wickremesinghe on Friday said the Climate Justice Forum will provide a platform for constructive and proactive engagements. (Dubai/Dec 2/2023)

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Sri Lanka IMF review goes to executive board on December 12

ECONOMYNEXT – The first review of Sri Lanka’s International Monetary Fund program is scheduled to go the lender’s Executive Board for consideration on December 12.

Sri Lanka officials were expecting the review to be completed in December as soon as official creditors gave their assurances.

According to the notice Sri Lanka had missed one performance criterion and has requested modifications.

Sri Lanka has outperformed on a number of quantity targets including inflation. In addition to quantity PCs there was also one non-accumulation of arrears.

There would also be re-phasing of access. The review was originally expected around September with another review based on December data, leading to September and March disbursements.

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