The Young Political Leaders Forum of Sri Lanka (YPLFSL) is calling for more representation of females in Parliament.
In a statement to mark International Women’s Day, the young politicians have stressed the importance of looking into matters that disheartens women from joining politics, and the need to ensure that affirmative actions are taken to encourage them to become political leaders.
International Women’s Day celebrates the social, political and economic achievements of women while focusing world attention on areas requiring further action. The 2014 theme ‘Inspiring Change’ encourages advocacy for women’s advancement everywhere in every way, and calls for challenging the status quo for women’s equality and vigilance inspiring positive change.
Stressing on the 2014 theme ‘Inspiring Change,’ YPLFSL says that young people are change agents and it is vital to include more young females in Sri Lanka’s Parliament. The young MPs have also participated in interactive discussions with current female MPs and civil society members to explore obstacles in women’s participation in politics.
MP Hunais Farook said: “We engaged in these discussions to determine the role we can play as young political leaders in our constituencies and political parties to encourage better participation of women. Among identified issues that prevent women from participating in politics are the existing masculine political culture, existing policies that are disadvantages to women, lack of financial support available for women coming into politics, and limited opportunities to build capacity of women entering politics.”
To eradicate these impediments, the young MPs suggest the need to include a quota system for women with a set representation; creating awareness and educating voters on the need to include more women representatives in Parliament; and initiating dialogues on the importance of such representation, as well as the need to mobilise the political leadership to support women.
Elaborating further MP Vasantha Senanayake said: “There are 13 females in Sri Lanka’s Parliament, which is less than 6%. Never in history has this dismally low percentage been exceeded. More qualified and professional women should be encouraged to come into Parliament. A constitutional reform is needed for make it easier for women to contest. I have submitted a set of constitutional reforms to the Parliamentary Select Committee. It proposes 100 MPs to be elected based on the first pass the post system, 100 on redefined national constituencies, a further 100 to be elected on a preferential basis and 25 to be appointed on the National List, and all appointees of the National List to be women.”
MP Harin Fernando added: “We believe that it is vital for women to take proactive leadership when it comes to national issues and policies. We also believe that the support of women is essential in reconciliation activities, and are keen on engaging with the Parliamentary Women Caucus to meet our group objectives as well.”
YPLFSL consists of a group of young cross-party Parliamentarians covering various ethnicities and different electorates across the country, working towards a common goal to promote peace and reconciliation. They are MP Vasantha Senanayake (SLFP, Gampaha District), MP Shehan Semasinghe (SLFP, Anuradhapura District), MP Niroshan Perera (UNP, Puttalam District), MP Harin Fernando (UNP, Badulla District) MP Hunais Farook (All Ceylon Muslim Congress, Vanni District) and Raghu Balachandran – Political Activist (Tamil National Alliance). The group was formed with the support of independent peace building organisation International Alert.