Bringing Women to the Forefront: President of Sri Lanka Launches National Campaign for Greater Women's Representation in Local Government

Date: Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Author: Prashani Dias and Yoonyoung Lee

Colombo, Sri Lanka — As Sri Lanka heads to Local Government elections in 2018, the President of Sri Lanka, H.E. Maithripala Sirisena, committed his support for increased women's political participation at the launch of a national campaign titled, "Women for Change".

Photo: UN Women/Yoonyoung Lee

President Sirisena remarked that, "though women's representation in the government service is at a proper level, it is a critical issue that there is a shortage of their representation in political and constitutional sectors."

Sri Lanka has one of the lowest rates of women's political participation in the region - only 12 of 225 (5.3 per cent) with even as lower rates of women in office as 6 per cent at provincial and local levels, even despite over 51 pre cent of Sri Lankan population constituting of women.

In 2016, Sri Lanka legislated a minimum 25 per cent quota to guarantee women's representation at the local government level, as well as a minimum 30 per cent quota for women in party nomination lists at the provincial government level in 2017. With the introduction of 25 per cent women quota in to the Local Government Elections in 2018, the electoral demography of Sri Lanka is soon to be changed dramatically towards having more women in politics.

The lack of political awareness and empowerment among women is a prominent factor behind such low representation. The Women for Change campaign aims to promote women as visionary and capable leaders who are critical actors in Sri Lanka's growth and democracy and to increase awareness of the 25 per cent quota at the local level, and to transform public perceptions of women's engagement in politics.

The campaign was designed by civil society and development partners including UN Women, under the joint leadership of the Ministry of Provincial Councils and Local Government and the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs. UN Women has assisted in the development of the themes, key messages and additional resources for the campaign, as it built upon UN Women's and its partners' previous Vote for Women campaign conducted in the run up to the 2015 General Election.

Photo: UN Women/Yoonyoung Lee

Speaking at the launch, President Sirisena highlighted the many problems faced by women and how they cope up with them and said the current government fully acknowledges the importance of women's representation. He said: "In order to establish a better country, better society, and to establish a society with love, compassion and moral values, it is important to focus on the representation of women to take the lead in such a society. (…) we need not only to bring patriarchal but also matriarchal values, ideas and concepts, suggestions to create an ideal society."

Following his speech, the President launched the Facebook page for the campaign, which is expected to run beyond the 2018 Local Government Elections.

The launch was graced by 500 potential women candidates from all 25 districts of Sri Lanka, who mobilized and participated in the "Women for Change Walk" earlier that day. Cabinet Ministers Hon. Chandrani Bandara, Hon. Faiszer Mustapha, Hon. Thalatha Athukorala, Deputy Minister Hon. Anoma Gamage, State Minister Hon. Sudarshini Fernandopulle, Chief Minister of the Western Province Hon. Isura Devapriya, Ambassadors and Foreign Diplomats were among those who attended.

For more information, contact:

Ramaaya Salgado
UN Women Sri Lanka