- Stresses negative perception associated with sector needs to be destroyed
- Highlights out of 8.5 m economically active Sri Lankans, only 30% constitute women; majority of females economically inactive
- Says Sri Lankan women have held highest possible office at every level of governance, corporate world, risen to the top and continue to do so
Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga pledged to focus on encouraging more women to join the lucrative industry, insisting that the sector has the potential to transform the economy through greater female participation.
“In terms of the tourism industry, although it is a female-dominated industry in most of the developed world, in Sri Lanka it remains a male-dominated industry. The main reason is the negative perception associated with the sector.
The Tourism Ministry will focus on promoting more women to join the tourism industry,” he said, addressing the first-ever Women’s Day celebration organised by the Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs Ministry in Colombo recently.
The Minister stressed the negative perception associated with the sector needed to be destroyed as it was baseless, adding that tourism industry had potential to transform Sri Lanka’s economy through greater female participation.
He highlighted that women form the majority of the population in Sri Lanka with around 10.9 million females as opposed to 10.1 million males. Out of the almost 11 million-strong female population, 67% is in the productive or active category of between 15 to 65 years of age.
“However, out of the 8.5 million economically-active Sri Lankans, only 30% constitute women, which mean that the majority of females are economically inactive. This is despite the fact that the country’s top three foreign exchange earners – namely, migrant workers, apparel and the tea industry – are all dominated by females,” he pointed out.
Therefore Amaratunga stressed that he hoped more females would contribute to economic activities in the years to come, especially in the tourism sector, which would help take Sri Lanka to greater heights.
He said Sri Lanka was also one of the few countries in the world to have established a dedicated Women’s Affairs Ministry almost four decades ago with the mandate of ensuring the wellbeing of all females in Sri Lanka.
Outlining the recent political history, he said: “The first female to be elected as a Member of the Legislature in Ceylon was Adline Molamure from Ruwanwella in 1931. The Senate was the Legislature at the time and this was also the year the first-ever general election was held in the country after its citizens were granted franchise by the British colonial rulers. The first Senate which was in office from 1931 to 1935 also included another female, Naysum Saravanamuttu, who represented Colombo North. Therefore it is significant that not only was Sri Lanka the first country in Asia to practice adult franchise, but to also elect female representatives to the supreme Legislature.”
In addition, Amaratunga pointed out that Sri Lanka produced the first female Prime Minister in the world, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who served as Prime Minister of Ceylon and Sri Lanka three times, from 1960 to 1965, 1970 to 1977 and 1994 to 2000. In 1994, her elder daughter Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga became the President of Sri Lanka, becoming the first female to be elected to that office in Sri Lanka.
“At the last Local Government election held a few weeks ago Rosy Senanayake was elected as the first female Mayor of the 153-year-old Colombo Municipal Council. So as you can see, the ladies in Sri Lanka have held the highest possible office at every level of governance and even in the corporate world, women have risen to the top and continue to do so. This is apart from their domination at home, which is a part of our tradition and culture,” he quipped.