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