UNICEF is pioneering the Child Friendly Cities Initiative in Sri Lanka with the Batticaloa Municipal Council in the Eastern Province. The pilot initiative commenced mid-2018, and the Batticaloa Municipality is on route to become the first Child Friendly Municipality in Sri Lanka and in South Asia.
UNICEF Sri Lanka contributes its financial and technical assistance and plays a convening role in bringing together multiple stakeholders and advocating for scale up to the national level. Since 2019, UNICEF Sri Lanka has included the initiative as one of its priority programmes under the Social Policy and Child Rights Monitoring section.
The vision of the CFCI in Sri Lanka is to make Batticaloa, as well as other cities, a place where every child can enjoy their childhood, reach their full potential through the equal realization of their rights, with their voices, needs, and priorities forming an integral part of the local government’s policies, programmes, and decisions.
In line with this, the CFCI in Sri Lanka aims to:
- Improve the physical environment for children, specifically related to education, safety and protection, play and leisure;
- Strengthen awareness and understanding of child rights by community members, including children themselves;
- Enhance children’s participation in the decision-making process of local government;
- Strengthen evidence-based planning and policy to respond to the needs of the most disadvantaged.
Through focused actions, the CFCI in Sri Lanka has already seen significant and sustainable progress in the journey to make Batticaloa Municipal Council more child-friendly. The CFCI has successfully strengthened institutional capacities and increased awareness and participation from key stakeholders – a dedicated CFCI team within the Batticaloa municipality was established, and an MoU between the Batticaloa Municipal Council and UNICEF signed. With the help of this team, a successful assessment of the situation of children was conducted, and in an effort to improve child and youth participation in decision-making processes, the direct feedback and opinions of children in the Municipality were used to develop an Action Plan. Through incorporating children’s feedback, the CFCI established and enhanced many public spaces around the Municipal area such as recreational parks, health clinics and community/youth centres to be more child-friendly. Further, the 2021 budget was formed in consultation with children so that they would have a greater say in how their municipality would develop in the future.
Key partners and stakeholders supporting the initiative include the Municipal Council of Batticaloa; the regional director of health services; the zonal Director of Education; probation and childcare services; the road development authority; the State Ministry of Women and Child Development; the Ministry of Youth and Sports; and the Ministry of Education.