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From ‘nobody’s child’ to somebody’s child

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‘The Probable Age Certificate’ (PAC) issued to children without a birth certificate for lack of key information required for its issue often means discrimination and social stigma despite the PAC’s legal validity. In a bid to renew discussion on this social dilemma and find more socially acceptable alternatives at policy-making level, we spoke to multiple stakeholders including those who had left care homes and have been at the receiving end of the consequences.

by Randima Attygalle

Dhanushka Kumara Jayaratne was rejected by several leading schools when seeking Grade One admission on the grounds of his holding a ‘Probable Age Certificate’ as opposed to a Birth Certificate. When he was finally admitted to a school, he was shut out of cultural events and sport competitions at various levels on the basis that he had no ‘proper birth certificate’. When applying for his national identity card and travel visas on several occasions, bottlenecks were many. One of the main problems was that the probable age certificate (PAC) did not specify any guardian in the absence of names of parents.

Today a 31-year-old executive, Dhanushka gives leadership to the ‘Generation Never Give up Network’ (GNGN), an initiative of the SOS Children’s Villages, Sri Lanka which advocates the causes of care leavers (children leaving child care institutions at 18 years). Lobbying for a more socially acceptable form of a birth certificate in place of the PAC is one of the top priorities of this collective.

“PAC often leads to discrimination and stigmatization due to its format,” observes this young man pushing for a more ‘dignified’ birth certificate with ‘better terminology’ and provisions for ‘guardians’ that could either be an individual or a child care institute. “The issue was taken up by the Parliamentary Sectoral Oversight Committee on Women and Children a couple of years ago and was discussed for a while but unfortunately no solution was tabled,” notes Danushka who hopes to renew the dialogue among relevant partners through the GNGN initiative.

“The probable age certificate of mine is nothing but a piece of paper with some dotted lines claiming that I was born within such a time frame. It is very humiliating to produce this piece of paper for government exams, employment etc,” says Nirmala Niroshini. Recollecting the emotionally traumatizing moments when she was viewed almost as an ‘abnormal’ individual on the basis of her PAC, Nirmala urges the authorities to revise its present format and enable a more acceptable document. She also proposes that an endorsement on the PAC by the Registrar General’s Department to make it as good as a normal birth certificate for official purposes. “It was an uphill task for me to get my NIC. I had to submit so many supporting documents verifying the legality of my PAC to convince the authorities. Finding employment was another battle,” says Nirmala, who is today employed as a clerical staffer at a dental clinic.

 

Current regulations

The Registrar General’s Department makes provisions to obtain a PAC for children who are in homes approved by the government, children who are not in such homes and even adults. Statistics on the exact number of children presently holding PACs in the country however remain unclear.

The PAC is issued to individuals (children as well as adults) who cannot be granted a ‘birth certificate’ due to lack of key information required for the latter. “This includes the absence of an exact date of birth or even the mother’s name. To issue a birth certificate, an informant is required and if the informant (who is often an authority from a child care institute in case of children under 14 years) cannot furnish the information required, providing a birth certificate would become difficult,” admits the Senior Deputy Registrar General G.A.L.D. Ganepola.

The Establishment Code and the Public Administration Circular 26/1995 provide for the acceptance of the PAC. The Public Administration Circular 26/1995 states that PAC ‘is acceptable for the purpose of confirmation of name and date of birth of persons.’

“Probable age certificate is a legitimate legal document which should be accepted by all agencies although in reality it doesn’t happen largely due to ignorance of the regulations,” notes Ganepola. Increased public awareness on this matter with wide media coverage is necessary for this, says the official. A unique ID number at birth is another alternative proposed by the Senior Deputy Registrar General which could be used for all administrative purposes including school admission, admission into children’s homes etc.

 

Social stigma

Despite the law recognizing all individuals to be treated equally regardless of any complications pertaining to their birth, children with the PAC are discriminated and stigmatized from all directions in society when they sit for government exams, apply for jobs, universitiy admission, competitive sports and government benefits, says Divakar Ratnadurai, National Director, SOS Children’s Villages Sri Lanka.

Out of 900 children currently living in SOS villages, around 300 have PACs. Also, many who have left the homes are similarly burdened. Lobbying for the reintroduction of the Extract (a shorter version of the birth certificate) with certain modifications enabling practical options where the required information is not available is a possible solution says Ratnadurai. This Extract which was once available was discontinued in the 1970s.

Constraints in obtaining basic information of destitute children is another bottleneck which has led to certain children receiving the PAC instead of a birth certificate, he points out. “Sometimes children are enrolled in care homes without basic information and care givers are faced with difficulties searching for this information.”

Ratnadurai proposes several measures to raise awareness among multiple stakeholders including school authorities to eliminate discrimination. Establishing a special unit in the Department of Probation and Child Care Services to provide continuous awareness on the PAC; lobbying policy makers and administrators for the ‘Extract’ to be given legal recognition etc. are among the correctional proposals made to make life easier for those carrying this burden.

 

Sensitizing stakeholders

Proposing a probable ‘birth’ certificate replacing the present probable age certificate, Commissioner, Department of Probation and Child Care Services, Chandima Sigera calls for sensitizing the stakeholders at every level including education authorities, other government officials, private sector and the community at large on this issue. In the best interest of children moving for a more socially acceptable form of identity which wouild eliminate dicrimination is urgent says the Commissioner who alludes to the fundamental rights of ‘non discrimination’ and and ‘best interest’ of children upheld in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

 

Determining the age of a child

The current regulations require for a medical certificate estimating the age of the child (probable age) to be submitted to the Registrar General’s Department to obtain a probable age certificate. This is issued by a JMO who collaborates with other specialists.

“In estimating the age of a child, factors such as development of teeth and bones are taken into account. If there is any other medical evidence such as a diagnosis card, we take it into consideration as well,” explains the Consultant JMO, Dr. Uthpala Attygalle. Once the probable time frame of birth is established, the applicant’s date of birth is recorded either as January 1 or July 1, depending on each case.

 

A vicious cycle

Care leavers sadly become victims of a vicious cycle points out Prabodhini Munasinghe Wickrematunga, Attorney-at-Law with special interest in gender issues. “When women are unable to care for them, children are abandoned. Often the mother is unable to reveal the identity of the father because the pregnancy is a result of rape, sometimes by a relative.

Most employers know nothing about PACs making it difficult for their holders to find decent work and sometimes out of sheer desperation are driven to prostitution. This vulnerability exposes them to risks both in terms of health and security.

Uncertain identity arising as a result of not having a birth certificate which is regarded as an essential document can lead to many negative emotions, explains Dr. Neil Fernando, Consultant Psychiatrist and Senior Lecturer from the Kotelawala Defence University. “Uncertainty frequently brings with it unpredictability which reduces the mental well being and frequently acts as a stress factor. Long term stress is a predisposing factor in causing many non-communicable diseases which include heart disease and diabetes,” he said. Feelings of alienation from the community can lead to social isolation and depression, he added.



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Life style

Live healthily and say yes to avocado

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What Is an Avocado? An avocado is a bright green fruit with a large pit and dark leathery skin. They’re also known as alligator pears or butter fruit. Avocados are a favorite of the produce section. They’re the go-to ingredient for guacamole dips.

Avocado or more popularly called ‘Butter Fruit’ in India is a rich creamy flavoured fruit that has loads of health benefits associated with it. This super fruit is available in different varieties and all of it has one thing in common i.e its creamy taste. This is considered a super fruit because it improves digestion, prevents cancer, helps in weight loss and good for your heart.

Apart from this, this super fruit also aids in good skin health and helps improve your vision. The lutein content found in this fruit protects your skin from ageing. Thus, this super fruit comes packed with antioxidants, fibres, vitamins and minerals including a high source of potassium.

Worldwide, this fruit is known as ‘Alligator Pears’ and this fruit is treated as a luxury in most countries of the world. This is because it contains low levels of cholesterol that can do good for your heart as well as aids in weight loss. Moreover, this article will focus on the health benefits that this super fruit offers including some of its nutritional facts that can make this a luxury fruit.

Facts about Avocado (Butter Fruit):

Apart from the fact that this fruit offers loads of health benefits, there are certain interesting facts that you need to know about this fruit. Here are some must-know facts about butter fruit.

This sacred fruit has the ability to maintain sperm quality and this is because it houses healthy fats, vitamin B6 and vitamin E. Moreover, its content of vitamin B6 and selenium is said to prevent sperm damage.

This super fruit is low in cholesterol that can prevent you from the risks of developing heart diseases.Avocados contain four grams of protein that makes this fruit the highest of protein content.

Avocado trees bear fruit and survive only when there is another avocado tree next to them. This means that these avocado trees do not self-pollinate and do require another of its kind close to them in order to grow.

Health Benefits of Avocado for Health and Skin:

There have been numerous studies in the past that have listed out some of the health benefits of butter fruit and why this fruit is considered a super fruit. Thus, here are some health benefits of avocado that you should know.

Rich in Potassium:

Potassium is much-needed for the human body but most people do not get it enough and this is because of the sort of food we get today. This nutrient helps your body’s cells in numerous ways. Just 100 grams of butter is more than enough for your body to reap all of its benefits. It said to have a much higher source of potassium than bananas meaning this fruit is said to have a high source of potassium that is usually found in bananas. Potassium levels maintain a healthy blood pressure level.

Good For Your Heart:

Beta-sitosterol is the major compound found in avocados and this helps in maintaining good cholesterol levels. In some studies that involved lab rats, avocados that were given for 5 weeks continuously witnessed 27% lower triglyceride’s plasma levels in HDL cholesterol which is a good thing. Based on this finding, it is said that consuming at least 100 grams of avocado can protect you from many heart diseases.

Good For Digestion:

Avocados aids in good digestion as this super fruit is said to be good for your intestine. This is because this fruit contains soluble and insoluble fibres that maintain and keep your intestines functioning with ease. These fibres are necessary for digestion as they ensure that you have bulk stools and normal bowel movements through the intestinal tract.

Good For Skin and Hair:

This super fruit comes packed with nutrients that can help you maintain a healthy skin texture. So if your skin is dry, then you need to drink some avocado juice and this helps your skin develop a glowing texture. This will also nourish your hair and treat dry hair.

You can also prepare an avocado face mask and this will benefit your skin in a much faster manner. You can also use avocado oil that is available in the market for treating psoriasis. The two major components found in avocados are beta-carotene and lycopene and these components help improve your skin tone and prevent premature ageing.

Improves Your Vision:

Avocados help keep your eyes healthy as they contain carotenoids that help protect your eyes from developing cataracts, age-related eye issues and macular degeneration. This fruit is rich in antioxidants and this helps to neutralise the effects caused by free radicals. Moreover, in order to develop your vision, you need to consume some avocado juice every day. Just 100 grams of avocado can do the trick.

Natural Painkiller for Arthritis:

This super fruit comes packed with loads of antioxidants that can relieve you from joint pain and muscle pain. How difficult would it be to drink a glass of avocado juice? So, here is what you need to do. Simply drink a glass of avocado juice every day and you can ease out the joint pain that you are suffering from.

Prevents Bad Breath:

Consuming avocados can prevent you from having a breath that is caused due to indigestion or an upset stomach. So how does this super fruit do this? Well, this is because of the antibacterial and antioxidant properties in the fruit that manage to kill bad bacteria in your mouth. Also, butter fruit can prevent oral cancer too.

Prevents You From Cancer:

Avocado is said to prevent you from cancer due to its carotenoid and monosaturated fat content. Glutathione is the major antioxidant that protects your cells from cancer and other free radicals that can cause cancer. Medically speaking, this sacred fruit can prevent you from prostate cancer, oral cancer and skin cancer. So all you need to do is to make it a point to just consume a glass of avocado juice and this will do you good.

Reduces Cholesterol:

One of the most striking diseases that most people around the world are facing is heart diseases. Some of the reasons for people developing heart diseases are cholesterol, inflammation and blood pressure. Moreover, avocado prevents heart diseases by:

Reducing cholesterol levels

Reducing blood triglycerides by 20%

Reduces LDL cholesterol by 22%

Increases HDL or good cholesterol by 11%

Aids in Anti-Ageing:

Avocado contains zeaxanthin and lutein decreases signs of premature ageing by protecting your skin from UV radiation. Applying avocado oil or consuming it can benefit your skin and prevent it from ageing. Its high source of antioxidant properties such as lutein and zeaxanthin play an important role in maintaining skin from the sun’s rays and aids in better and younger skin.

Good For Your Bones:

The lutein and zeaxanthin content present in avocado reduces your chances for cartilage defects. Zinc, copper and phosphorous, calcium and selenium reduce your chances of developing osteoporosis. Instead, these minerals help in improving bone density. So all you need to do is just sip a glass of avocado juice and this will help keep your bones strong.

Aids In Weight Loss:

Avocado is called a super fruit because this can also aid in weight loss and this is because avocado curbs your appetite. One glass of avocado juice can curb your appetite and this will stop you from munching now and then. Constant munching and crunching of food can lead to weight gain and as a result, this sacred fruit can curb that. Adding this healthy fruit to your everyday diet can help you consume fewer calories and this will make you feel full.

FAQs

Now that you know that avocado or butter fruit is a healthy fruit that can a lot more good to your health than you can ever think of, here are some frequently asked questions that will shed some insight into the negatives of consuming this fruit in excess.

What happens if I consume too much butter fruit?

You need to understand that what is good for your health may turn out to be a nightmare for you if it is consumed in excess. So the excessive consumption of avocado causes:

Migraines

Vomiting

Sensitivity to light; and

Nausea

Note:

It is advised that you consume at least 100 grams of avocado every day and this will do good.

What are the benefits of avocado oil?

If the avocado has loads of benefits, then avocado oil is said to be even more beneficial, especially for your skin. Here are some of the benefits of avocado oil.

It moisturises and nourishes your skin.

Fights inflammation in the skin, especially psoriasis and eczema.

It is the best natural treatment for acne.

Prevents premature ageing.

Keeps your scalp healthy.

Can avocado oil be used for cooking?

Avocado oil can be used for cooking purposes like frying cooking etc. It is considered healthy as this will reduce your risks of developing heart diseases. This will add to your healthy lifestyle and will benefit your health in multiple ways.

Avocado is a seasonal fruit similar to mango and this is considered a super fruit that can benefit your health in multiple ways. You need to keep in mind that excessive consumption of butter fruit can cause other medical complications such as migraines, nausea and problems with eyesight. In order to get the best out of avocados, all you need to do is to consume at least 100 grams of it daily. Live healthily and say yes to avocado. –The Health

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Modern and contemporary styles in keeping with today’s trends

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Chairman Primal Wijaynayake with other members

Managing Director of Widac Commercial Interiors, Chandi Alles is a pioneer in the field of Design. She started her career in New Zealand and returned to Sri Lanka at which point Widac ventured into offering its clients a total interior solution from design to fit out.

Steering Widac’s Projects Division, the Company has participated in many exhibitions and have won prestigious awards locally and internationally.She has an experience of 30 + years in the industry, and has been involved in working with clients that span over all segments of businesses in the commercial sector. Her passion for designs has helped to transform spaces to functional and practical working environments.

To mark 50th anniversary of partnership with Steelcase,Widac organised a CSR project to distribute wheel chairs prostatic legs and dry rations to the needy.

(Q) Your multi-faceted design firm not only deals with design but handles manufacturing of unique detailed products as well. Could you elaborate your unique design philology and how it reflects the key works done by your firm?

(A) Our designs are based mainly on modern and contemporary styles in keeping with today’s trends reflecting the business of the client. As such we work with processed timber and engineered surfaces which can be transformed to bring out unique creativity.

(Q) What made you opt for designer as a career. How has your work evolved over time?

(A) I enjoyed creative work from a very young age and when I went to New Zealand had the opportunity of working with an experienced designer. Her inspiration and my interest in “Design” created a career path for me. I have enjoyed 35 years of work to the fullest, and I gain satisfaction when I saw my creativity transformed into reality.

(Q) Luxury does not mean fancy construction materials or flamboyant installation but spaciousness, diverse usability and availability of options.Your opinion?

(A) Agree to your statement. Luxury can be achieved with less expensive materials. Use of colour , lighting and texture are key elements for the final product.

(Q) What in your opinion what are some of the loopholes that the designers get trapped in while designing luxury projects?

(A) Limitation of materials available at present in the market

(Q) A project close to your heart why?

(A) All projects are close to my heart as each and everyone is given a lot of time from start to finish. Being in love with my work is always the key to achieving better results

(Q)Your most challenging design project? Share the challenges and how you overcame them?

(A) Practicality is fundamental in my design. The biggest challenge I have had is to achieve precision in the final product. Design is a way of living,enjoying lifestyle to the fullest is my forte.

(Q)What is your dream project?

(A) Convert a complex that looks rather rundown to the best making it an icon for others to admire

(Q) How do you combine beauty and function? What do you see for the future of design?

(A) Beauty can be achieved with the correct use of materials, colour and light Nevertheless day to day maintenance needs to be considered as well to let the “beauty” last!

(Q) What are you working on at the moment?

(A) A VIP Lounge and Staff Cafeteria in a Commercial Building

(Q)What is your favourite project date and why?

(A) Etisalat – A well known name in the Telecommunication Industry. Dates back to a decade. It’s considered favourite for reasons below

a. Total design and build was by WIDAC

b. The first in the country to depict the same “Concept” of the Flagship Store and other forty outlets

island wide

c. The 40 outlets that it is spread out in the country were completed in one year.

d. Gave us real satisfaction to see our work showcased in main cities and little towns through out Sri Lanka

(Q)What fuels you to do what you do every day?

(A) I need constant excitement and challenges in my work to keep me motivated. I take pleasure in working on turnkey projects which are fast-paced; also anything stereotypical and conventional brings boredom.

I am highly passionate about what I do. There were times when I was not very enthusiastic about some things, but I worked on it by discovering small ways to keep the level of excitement high. Despite the challenges, the show must go on!

(Q) What is your definition of success?

(A) Success is subjective. According to me, it means having a name, fame, recognition, and appreciation for the work done. To have made it in the industry without anyone to endorse me has been my mark of success. I also believe that being able to grow and adapt to the trends and to evolve, yet staying afloat despite hitches, is a success. Although the monetary aspect plays an important role, hard work and honesty are something to be treasured.

(Q) What advice would you give to professional women?

Working women need to be respected as they are the embodiment of the art of balancing work, home, their lives, everything.

(A) I believe that time management is essential to being an organized person, so delegating and outsourcing must be made use of wherever possible.

More importantly, love and trust yourself, also be motivated by setting aside some time for self-care and enjoyment with friends. Learn to laugh and to let go, as there are some situations that are beyond your control and you cannot please everyone. Furthermore, never ever compromise on your self-respect and dignity, because you are worth a lot more than you think.

WIDAC chaiman Primal Wijaynayake with managing director Chandi Alles and director operations Prashan Wijenayake

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Life style

Dreams night to tour from the US to Canada

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‘Sihina Rathri’ (Dreams Night), a charity musical concert will tour United States and Canada from July 15 to August 5.the Organised by the Asian Friendly Art Foundation which is based in USA , this musical concert will also tour Sweden, Italy, UK, Canada and Sri Lanka and a series of musical concerts will be held . Popular actor Uddika Premaratne, singer Gayan Gunawardena, Adithya Weliwatte and Nuwandika Senarathe will all be featured at the Dreams Night concert in America and Canada.

The USA based Sri Lankan tele drama producer Kumari Panditharathne who initiated the Asian Friendship Art Foundation, and the president of Sri Lankan branch, well-known announcer Mahesh Nissanka, lyrics writer Ravi Siriwardena will entertain the audience with thier magical performances.

Already more than ten shows of Dream Night had been performed in different parts of Sri Lanka and the proceeds of the show will be donated for the development of hospitals, schools, temples and other religious institutions, said the co-ordinator of Sri Lankan branch Dinesh Gamage said.

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