Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 27 September 2015





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Making women count at 2016 local polls

With the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) being a key topic of discussion as the United General Assembly(UNGA) got underway in New York, Sri Lanka is adding to the global voices, calling for enhanced political representation of women.

Efforts made to increase the number of women getting party nominations and the call for a quota were submerged in a sea of political chaos, this year.

With local government elections scheduled to be held early next year, civil society groups are increasing the pressure on political parties to ensure better representation for women at the local level and to secure this as a right, through the recognition of a quota.

Though the ‘women’s quota’ or ‘better representation’ is included in party policy documents, main political parties continue to paddle the old boat, with the success of women entrants being a matter of party leaders’ discretion.

According to the current law, there is provision for 255 of the candidates to be women and youth, but this is not a mandatory stipulation.

Women’s’ representation in the current Parliament is less than six percent. “The country is at a critical juncture with a number of decisive changes taking place. It is important to ensure the increase of women in political representation, specially in this backdrop,” noted Dr. Sepali Kottegoda, Executive Director, Women and Media Collective.

According to new statistics, the average percentage of women represented at the local government is only two percent, according to the WMC.

“At least, arrangements should be made before the upcoming LG Polls to increase the number of wards to ensure that women can be nominated to contest for 30 percent of the available seats,” she said.

“Unless the legal provisions are introduced to make it mandatory, this cannot become a reality,” said Kumudini Samuel, Research Associate at the WMC. According to Samuel, despite the broad campaigns undertaken to promote women’s representation at parliamentary elections, out of a 6000 plus candidates, only a little above 500 women received nominations, many of them only to be included in the lists.

“If the parties are legally bound to increase the number of women nominations, then we can start a supportive campaign to help women win elections,” said Samuel.

Chairperson, National Committee on Women, Swarna Sumanasekera, said two Cabinet Papers have already been submitted by the Women’s Affairs and Local Government Ministries calling for the increase of women’s representation in politics. Unfortunately, women’s representation in the current parliament has further reduced.

The Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus is yet to be formed and the National Committee on Women plans to drive a campaign to ensure their demand is a legal reality, said Sumanasekera.

Parallel to all these efforts, the National Committee on Women are conducting a diploma program in Hambantota the train women active in ground level politics – to advance them in to contesting elections.

As Sumanasekera said, a new higher education program will be introduced by the Committee in collaboration with the University of Peradeniya.


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