Sri Lankan joins South Asia MPs to discuss for stronger investment in children and adolescents

UNICEF is hosting parliamentarians from the entire South Asia region in an effort to increase investment in children and young adults, bringing about much needed change for millions of poor and improving the prospects for healthy economic growth in the region. The South Asia Parliamentarian Platform for Children being held in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 02 - 03 May 2018 aims to strengthen opportunities for children in the first two decades of their lives. Lawmakers from all eight countries in South Asia will meet to prioritize, promote, and safeguard children's rights and discuss the prospects for further investment in Early Childhood and adolescent years.

"While South Asia is home to one fourth of the world's population, its share of global income is just 4%. This fact underlines one of the biggest challenges for South Asia's progress on the social and economic front: namely the lack of investment in its largest asset, its Human Capital - and especially the young within the society," said Ms. Jean Gough, Regional Director of UNICEF South Asia.

Three parliamentarians from Sri Lanka participated in this meeting: Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle - Chair of the Parliamentary Caucus for Children, Dr. Thusitha Wijemanne - Chair of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Women and Gender and Prof. Ashu Marasinghe - Member of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Public Finance. The Assistant Secretary General of Parliament, Ms. Kushani Rohanadeera was also present.

Speaking on the initiative Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle said: "Children are crucial constituents; the future economic prosperity and development of the country depends on them. In our role as parliamentarians, we need to review legislation and especially the National Budget, through a child's perspective to ensure that investments in the social sectors that impact children are adequate and equitable so that no child, regardless of who they are or where they live, can reach their full potential to become productive citizens of this country".

This year's meeting focused on the region's commitment to increased investment in children. 300 million children in South Asia are so-called multi-dimensionally poor with too little to eat, a high risk of falling sick from preventable disease and a very slim chance of ever going to school.

Evidence shows that investment in the young pays strong dividends to society. One dollar invested in quality Early Childhood Development will give a return of between 6 and 17 dollars. If low- and middle-income countries ensured preschool enrollment to half of the country's children, the result could be cumulative lifetime earnings gains of $15 - $34 billion. The urgent, timely and adequate investments in early childhood and adolescent years will lead to well-developed brains and a highly productive workforce.

UNICEF South Asia is honored to bring together law makers to discuss the increased need for investment in favor of the most marginalized children."There are very good chances for bringing about radical and important change: in most countries in the region, children and young people make up a large part of society and even smaller investments now will give good results for children and South Asian societies" said Ms. Jean Gough of UNICEF South Asia.