Colombo, March 6 (IANS) Sri Lankan legislators have joined lawmakers from across South Asia to prioritise and safeguard children's rights, the UN children's agency Unicef said on Monday.
According to the Unicef, despite economic growth and improvements in realising the rights of children, massive disparities still exist, preventing children from living in dignity, reaching their full potential and making choices about their futures.
Sri Lanka, home to eight million children under 18, has some of the region's best health indicators, almost universal primary schooling, with nearly 90 per cent of the population having access to safe drinking water, Xinhua news agency reported.
However, Unicef noted that violence against children, including physical abuse at home, remains a concern. While the rate of extreme poverty is declining (by 16 per cent between 2002 and 2012), child poverty rates remain higher.
"Even though our indicators are really good, we still have issues like child marriage, school dropouts and migration affecting children," said Sudarshani Fernandopulle, an MP.
"Children remain at the heart of a country's development and future economic growth. We need to invest more in policy reform and budgetary allocation in order to address the remaining disparities that prevent every child, especially the most vulnerable and marginalised, from reaching their full potential," she said at a children's regional meeting.
Unicef said the meeting was a milestone in bringing together lawmakers from all eight countries in South Asia to prioritise, promote, and safeguard children's rights.
It was an opportunity to plug in the critical role that parliamentarians can play in tackling key development challenges affecting children within the larger framework of the Sustainable Development Goals, it said.