- Not happy with 35% women representation in labour force
- Says despite bragging about men, it is women who bring top dollar into the country
- Calls for new policies, labour laws, flexible hours, security, day-care centres to increase female participation in economic activities
- Claims women not adequately recognised for their contribution to development of Sri Lanka
By Charumini de Silva
In a hard-hitting evaluation of female participation in the economy, Colombo Mayor-elect Rosy Senanayake criticised the attitude of people who always undermine the capacity of women and called for a mindset change to increase female representation in the workforce of Sri Lanka.
Senanayake, who has become the first female Mayorof Colombo, pulled no punches while delivering the keynote address at the first-ever Women’s Day Celebration organised by the Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs Ministry in Colombo, on Wednesday (28).
Presenting her evaluation on female representation in the labour force, she stressed that successive governments had failed to meet the expectations, highlighting the fact that it was female employees who brought the top dollar into the economy.
“I am not very proud of the numbers in terms of female representation in the labour force, we are still at 35%. The mindset when it comes to female employment and promotionsis still very negative and conservative. I think it is high time that we all change this attitude,” she told the gathering.
Emphasising that Sri Lanka needed new policies, she called for labour laws that were favourable for women to be actively engaged in the economy. Senanayake also observed that the country requiredthe introduction of flexible hours, security and day-care centres to increase female representation in the labour force.
“Whether it is sexism or sexual harassment in workplace, it is something we all need to take on. The leadership has to be very firm in making the operational sector more conducive for women and if the female employees feel vulnerable in certain areas, the employers need to ensure their security,” she added.
Noting that financing was one of the biggest stumbling blocks for women to become entrepreneurs, she called for easy financing schemes, capacity building and leadership training programs to support them.
She was candid about her appraisal of the country’s gender representation in the economy, pointing out that despite the struggle the women undergo to keep their headstraight in the workforce, they had not been recognised adequately for their contribution to the development of Sri Lanka.
“Even though we always brag about men, it is the women who bring the top dollar into the country. The biggest industries that earnthe much-needed foreign exchange are predominantly driven by women, whether it is the labourers who work overseas, women who are engaged in the apparel, agriculture or tourism industry. Many of the women struggle so much, but they are not being appreciated for what they do in this country. We, as Sri Lankan women, basically in our multiple roles that we play every day, have delivered what the men have failed to do. I think we should be applauded,” she stated.
Senanayake asserted that there was a whole array of factors that the Government needed to look at as a responsible partner, with the private sector,especiallyin providing the right infrastructure for women to actively participate in the marketplace.