Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 26 July 2015





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

‘Fewer women enter Parliament’

Equal representation in the political system has failed:

Under representation of women in political institutions has been a hotly contested issue, with a wide spectrum of women ranging from academics to activists, individually and collectively calling for a change. Women politicians and women activists continue to highlight that there are enough and more women, with value and vision, to be a part in active politics, emphasising “They only need a proper platform.”

However, under-representation of women and youth exists despite the heavy campaigning which triggered off with the debate over the 20th Amendment to the Constitution.

Equal representation in the political system has failed and this time around too fewer women are contesting the elections. Every party, has a considerable numbers of women in the party. In some districts, women do not receive nominations. Sri Lanka is still rated low on the global index of women’s political representation, as the country is ranked 140 out of 153 in terms of women representation in Parliament, according to recent global statistics.

Sri Lanka was one the first countries in South Asia to give women the right to vote and has the honour of having the first woman Prime Minister in the world. The country has a 51.14% female population, and women have made significant progress in health, education and employment, making the country a model to the region. Yet, none of this has been translated into fair representation of women in Parliament or at Local Government level.

Sri Lankan women need to have a voice in the nation- building process. They need to be represented not only in economic and social spheres, but also at political level and be a part of the decision making process.

The Women in Media Movement, which protects the rights of women, for nearly two decades reiterated that the lack of political representation would push back women’s interests and concerns and exert little influence at any level of government. Thus leading to gender blind policy making.

The number of women on the contesting lists and national lists are low –even though women politicians and activists state that there is a slight increase. “Change can be expected when the electoral system changes with the 20th Amendment. So we believe the change is yet to come,” said Kumudini Samuel, Research Associate of the Women in Media Movement.

Former Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Research, Sudarshani Fernandopulle said the in the Sri Lanka Freedom Party was working towards capacity building of women to make them confident in the political world . “Not much of a change has happened with the nominations for this election. The electoral system needs to change, making the environment

conducive for women to be active in politics,” she explained.

Sriyani Wijewickrama of the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna contesting from the Digamadulla district pointed out that the message has not properly reached the masses. “The woman of the village is still not aware that she can make a choice in politics. The nature of society is such that they are influenced to prioritise the traditional role,” she emphasised.

According to her one cannot generalise women being active in political programs at village level. “It depends on the area and the nature of livelihood. But political awareness is lacking among women and men tend to always take the credit,” she added.

However, mainstream political parties claim that they continue with their capacity building programs for women activists at ground level.

Yet, the 2009 UNDP stock taking report named the struggle for equal political representation in Sri Lanka’, points out there had been no follow up to ensure that the women trained, received nominations and if and when they did, that they received further support to conduct a successful election campaign. The impact of the training programme in actually catapulting women into a career in politics is not clear and no proper survey had been conducted as an evaluation of the training programs.



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