Home / FT View/ Women to the fore

Women to the fore

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Monday, 13 November 2017 00:32

Despite women making up about 52% of the population, Sri Lanka has repeatedly had extremely limited women’s representation in politics with less than 5% of women in Parliament. But an opportunity has been given to change this situation at the upcoming polls.   

Under a quota system more than 2,000 women representatives will be elected to local government bodies under the newly-introduced mixed electoral system that calls for at least 25% women representation in local councils. 

Elections conducted under the previous proportional representation system returned only 82 women members to all the local councils which now stand dissolved. The gazette notification giving the number of members to each council was issued on Saturday and it makes it mandatory for political parties to foster strong female leaders and give them an opportunity to stand as candidates. 

Traditionally, while all main political parties in Sri Lanka have active women’s wings that enthusiastically campaign for their male candidates, very few of them are encouraged to stand as candidates themselves. However, under the latest move, political parties, which are often led by men, will have to work to select the best candidates to represent their parties. 

Unfortunately, women’s groups and gender activists have reported of instances when male leaders allegedly demand bribes and other kickbacks from women who wish to be fielded as candidates. Not only is this a gross abuse of power but, left unaddressed, it could mean the chance to create unprecedented change would be wasted.

Ideally, sweeping change in the composition of women at the local government level could increase women’s representation all the way up to Parliament and Sri Lanka would be the loser if it does not take this opportunity. Perhaps the best way to nominate candidates is to allow the women’s wings to do the selection and keep the process as transparent as possible. This would also serve political parties well because they would then get the best pick.  

Other countries have started out with quotas and gone on to create genuine change in their political systems, and this is not limited to developed countries. Having women in politics is crucial to better policymaking that will empower women and in turn encourage them into the workforce. 

Gender issues should not be viewed in silos; benefits from one sector can have wide-ranging spillover effects on others and this is just good economic sense. The political advantages will also be significant.     

With this in mind election watchdog the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) has called on political parties to field qualified and capable women to have an impact on the functions of local councils and in the decision-making process at the grassroots level.

Accordingly, 8,356 members will be elected to 341 local councils, a sharp increase of 4,486 from the number of members returned to the councils in the last elections. Of them, 3,840 members will be elected under the first-past-the-post system while the rest will be elected under the PR system. Of the 341 local councils, 276 are pradeshiya sabhas, 41 urban councils and 24 municipal councils. All councils should be convened by 15 February next year. Now it’s time to watch the campaigns unroll. 

Share This Article


1. All comments will be moderated by the Daily FT Web Editor.

2. Comments that are abusive, obscene, incendiary, defamatory or irrelevant will not be published.

3. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.

4. Kindly use a genuine email ID and provide your name.

5. Spamming the comments section under different user names may result in being blacklisted.


Today's Columnists

Strong brands can sustain shocks!

Thursday, 22 March 2018

The recent media highlighted the impact of communal violence on the tourism industry. The press conference earlier this week threw out a number as high as 10% whilst the actual cancellation was around 500 room nights around the Kandy vicinity was rep

Racism, riots, and the Sri Lankan State

Thursday, 22 March 2018

“One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion” – Simone de Beauvoir

Why Ranil is still needed

Thursday, 22 March 2018

The Joint Opposition move to pass a vote of no-confidence in Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will come a cropper. Ranil knows that best as he has tersely told a group of opposition pollies (Australia slang for ‘politicians’), “Come on! Pres

Putin, Mahinda and Gotabaya

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

I have to say that I am very happy indeed about the resounding victory scored by President Putin. If not for him, there would be no multi-polarity in the world; no chance of a global equilibrium; no ally for the rising economic power of China which w

Columnists More