The year 2020 marked 20 years since the adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on ‘Women, Peace and Security’ – a ground-breaking resolution that enshrined the essential role of women in securing and maintaining peace.
In Sri Lanka, women’s role in society altered significantly as more women became heads of households during the three-decade long conflict, and women’s role and inclusion in peacebuilding efforts became more vital than ever as they worked against tremendous odds for sustainable development and peace in their communities.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, however, has hindered these efforts and intensified inequalities, reversing the limited gains on gender equality and women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka and around the world.
To address these challenges particularly posed by COVID-19, for women, the G7+ Working Group on ‘Women, Peace and Security’ was recently co-convened by the State Ministry of Women and Child Development, Pre-school and Primary Education, School Infrastructure and Education Services, the Embassy of Japan in Sri Lanka and UN Women.
At the meeting, State Ministry of Women and Child Development, Pre-school and Primary Education, School Infrastructure and Education Services Secretary K.M.S.D. Jayasekara in a pre-recorded video statement said: “The State Ministry is committed to formulate and execute programmes to enhance legal, institutional and human resource services to strengthen mechanisms for economic, social and educational empowerment of women by aligning national priorities - particularly the National Policy Framework Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour – in line with international standards of gender equality and women’s empowerment. In doing so, promoting the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Sri Lanka is a key priority.”
The G7+ Working Group was established to take forward the ‘Women, Peace and Security’ Agenda in the country, through the development and implementation of a National Action Plan to respond to the needs and priorities of women affected by conflict.
Reiterating their commitment, Minister and Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Japan in Sri Lanka Kitamura Toshihiro highlighted: “Japan has been supporting peace and development in Sri Lanka for many years, and become a partner country of Sri Lanka under the G7 Initiatives on ‘Women, Peace and Security’ in 2018, to contribute to the achievement of gender equality, women’s empowerment, and to strengthen women’s rights in Sri Lanka. As the partner and lead country for Sri Lanka, Japan has granted USD 6 million so far to advance the ‘Women, Peace and Security’ Agenda through UN agencies, in addition to the support provided by Japan International Technical Cooperation.”
The Working Group comprises representatives from G7 countries, the Government of Sri Lanka, UN agencies, and development actors. It acts as a knowledge sharing platform for best practices on gender equality, and the first of its kind multilateral coordination effort with the Government of Sri Lanka to promote women’s empowerment in the country, particularly amidst the ongoing pandemic.
Speaking on the fundamental need for women’s rights and women’s leadership to be at the centre of recovery efforts, Prashani Dias, Country Focal Point a.i at UN Women Sri Lanka explained, “Women’s economic empowerment is central to realising women’s rights and gender equality. Through our collective efforts, we offer a gender perspective for policymakers when making important decisions during and after crisis situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic.”
With less than a decade left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, making a conscious effort to put women front and centre of both immediate and long-term responses, and implementing the ‘Women, Peace and Security’ agenda in Sri Lanka will contribute to recovering better from the pandemic by accelerating progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment.