Establishment of the Centre of Excellence for Research and Innovation in Population Dynamics, Gender, Reproductive Health, Rights, and Social Policy

Establishment of the Centre of Excellence for Research and Innovation in Population Dynamics, Gender, Reproductive Health, Rights, and Social Policy

The University of Colombo signed an agreement with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Sri Lanka for the establishment of the Centre of Excellence for Research and Innovation in population dynamics, gender, reproductive health, rights and Social Policy, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the 1st of March, 2024 at the Senate Hall, College House, University of Colombo.

Senior Professor (Chair) H.D. Karunaratne, the Vice Chancellor of the University, Ms Vajira Jayaratne, the Acting Registrar, Dr Kumudika Boyagoda, Senior Lecturer, Department of Demography, Mr Pio Smith, Regional Director, UNFPA Asia Pacific, Mr Kunle Adeniyi, Representative of the UNFPA Sri Lanka, Ms Madhu Dissanayake, Regional Programme Specialist of the UNFPA APRO and other representative from UNFPA along with Deans of faculties and other academic staff of the University of Colombo were present at this event.

UNFPA and the University of Colombo, with the support of the Strategic Investment Facility (SIF), conceptualised a multidisciplinary South Asian Centre of Excellence for research and innovation in population dynamics, gender, reproductive health, rights, and social policy, in collaboration with the University of Colombo. The proposed functions include research, capacity building, generating evidence for policy advocacy, sharing learning across the region, digital health innovation, and fostering innovation to promote gender equality. This centre will build upon the decades-long engagement between UNFPA Sri Lanka and the Department of Demography and the Faculties of Arts, Medicine, and Law.

The Vice Chancellor, Professor Karunaratne made his opening remarks and welcomed the Regional Director and the other distinguished participants of the formal event. He spoke on the vision, mission and values of the Centre of Excellence. This centre would join 6 faculties of UOC thereby amalgamating research and training facilities of the various faculties. He then went on to explain the operating model and Service portfolio. The focus of the centre is gender equality and its priority areas are gender, reproductive health and social policy. The key service offerings would include policy dialogue, research and capacity building. Lastly, he spoke of the strategy goals and aspirations of the centre which include the expansion of knowledge, capacity building and training, promotion of dialogue and exchange, advocacy for change, network and partnership building, and dissemination of information.

Following this, Mr Kunle Adeniyi was called upon to explain the engagement between UOC and UNFPA, the rationale for the Centre of Excellence along with the important milestones that have led to the critical points in conversation between the two parties. He shed light on the progress made in Sri Lanka and referred to Sri Lanka as a point of pride in South Asia. He pointed out the apparent disparity in gender equality and the need for policy to be linked with knowledge to progress effectively. Therefore, a committee had been set up with a chairperson and the process of thinking and planning took 3 to 4 months to build the framework.

Mr Pio Smith was then called upon to address those present on the support extended from the region and the inaugural Centre of Excellence in this region. He spoke on the fact that population dynamics, gender, reproductive health, rights and social policy are aspects that society needs to give attention to. He mentioned that UNFPA has been in Sri Lanka for 50 years and they have recognized UOC as a key partner. They intend to bring in new gender reproductive technologies, partner with corporate sectors, and make sure every woman and girl can make her choices and have her rights.

The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding took place thereafter, with the documents being signed by the designated representatives. The event was then concluded with a vote of thanks and appreciation by Dr Boyagoda.