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Sunday, 29 March 2015

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Young political leaders urge:

A quota for women in Parliament

Strengthening democracy through greater women's representation in parliament will receive a fresh boost with a working document released by young political leaders comprising vital recommendations for a hike in the quota of women in Parliament.

stated in the YPLF Working

The initiative comes in the wake of Sri Lanka trying to increase women's political representation up to 25 percent which is a goal of the government in its pledge to promote good governance.

The Young Political Leader's Forum of Sri Lanka released a Working Document with Key Recommendations and the Multi Year Action Plan to increase women's representation in political institutions.

Among the key recommendations the YPLF highlight the importance of making the current discretionary quota for women and youth mandatory.

In the Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Act passed in October 2012 states that 25% of the total number of candidates and additional persons may consist of women and youth. The amendment abolished the 40% mandatory quota for youth that was introduced in 1990.

Hunais Farook Member of Parliament, representing the Young Political Leader's Forum of Sri Lanka (YPLF-SL) said that increasing women representation in politics is a step towards stronger democracy.

She said that working jointly with the Women Parliamentarian Caucus of Sri Lanka the YPLF is trying to highlight implementing these recommendations in political institutions at different levels.

Following several workshops and discussions with women activists, women and men in politics and in decision making, the YPLF documented the list of recommendations."The women activists were fighting for a 33% women representation. We will begin discussions within our parties on the possibility of converting this to a mandatory quota", Farook said.

Ferail Ashraff

Research on nominations for women reveal that there is a major gap between the public statements of the major political parties in particular the United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party about increasing nominations for women and the number of actual nominations given to women during elections, as stated in the YPLF Working Document.

As young parliamentarians we commit to explore ways and means by which the internal party quota can be adopted at least in our own constituencies at local level politics whereby more nominations can be given to women, Farook said adding that the YPLF will commit to increase nominations at local level in their party constituencies to 30 percent.

Identifying and training young women selected from our political parties for political leadership is of equal importance to us, Farook pointed out.

Sri Lanka produced the world's first woman Prime Minister in 1960. In addition women form the majority of the population in electorates. Starting from Adeline Molamure, a State Councillor, 60 women have served in the legislature including 13 who are currently serving. The present representation is awfully low.

The Women's Affairs Ministry hopes to complete their plan of work by April to increase women's representation in politics and in parliament by 25 percent.

Sharanya Sekaram

During the International Women's Day celebrations, the Women's Affairs Minister Chandani Bandara said that discussions were held with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Elections Commissioner, Minister of Public Administration, Democratic Rule and Buddha Sasana Karu Jayasuriya, Ministry Secretaries, representatives of NGOs, on actions need to be taken in support of increasing representation.

The Report will be presented to the Prime Minister and thereafter he will hold discussions with political party leaders, she said.

Why do women need to come to Politics? People say they need more women in politics. But the fact that more women are needed at decision making levels have not been made clear to the women leaders at grass root level, Ferail Ashraff former Minister of Housing and Common Amnesties who represented the Ampara District in the Parliament said.

This is what I personally saw, Ashraff said. We encourage people to enter politics but we should give a clear view of what it is all about. I wonder whether we do that, she added.

A political party wants votes. To achieve tat it will look for the person who could win the most number of votes. It will not be bothered whether it is a man or a woman.

A senior politician told me once that I am no use to them as I do not have the police or the Director of Education in my area under my command. When I asked him why does he say so he said that I should be able to take telephone calls and command the officers.

I thought the best things is not to interfere in the police affairs, she said.

Though Sri Lanka is proud to be the country that produced the world's first prime minister and country's first President, the common opinion is we still lack strong women politicians as role models.

May be not at the national level but when you go in to the village the MPs are role models because they give what people need and solve their problems, she said.

Commenting on the part played by activists who are trying to promote women political representation Ashraff stressed that it is high time that they promote women at village level.Men do not want women to rise for their rights.

Sharanya Sekaram, young professional said the main drawback for women to take into politics is that women are not groomed to be leaders in societies. They are raised to become only mothers and wives. Sekaram is engaged in programs which support women and youth.

The women politicians at ministerial level do stereo type work. We do not consider women politicians as capable of holding stronger ministerial posts, she said. This attitude should change.

Women should should be able to represent their views at every level, she said.

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