The High Commissioner of Canada to Sri Lanka and Maldives, Shelley Whiting, yesterday launched the Regional Women’s Parliamentary Initiative which brings leading women parliamentarians from Afghanistan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka together for a two-day series of meetings and discussions in Colombo on opportunities for enhanced women’s political participation in the region.
The Colombo component of this initiative is being organised by the High Commission of Canada to Sri Lanka and Maldives with the cooperation of the Government of Sri Lanka, most specifically the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, as well as Canadian Embassies and High Commissions in Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan.
Speaking on the importance of women’s political participation, High Commissioner Whiting stated, “we are all working to the same end, whether in Canada, or here in this region, and that is to support strengthened women’s political participation at all levels of government. Canada is committed to the view that gender equality is not only a human rights issue, but is also an essential component of sustainable development, social justice, peace, and security. We’ve all come a long way, and we all have valuable insight to share on how to continue to improve.”
Participating parliamentarians will engage in a series of meetings with key Sri Lanka parliamentarians, government officials and civil society activists promoting women’s political participation. In addition, they will share their views and perspectives on challenges and opportunities to increased political participation during a seminar on 30 January (today) entitled “Because it is 2016” – inspired by a quote from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who, when asked why he prioritised gender parity in his Cabinet, responded “because it is 2015.”
“The participants of this initiative come from countries in the region with rich political and cultural heritages and share the experience of being women leaders. They bring that wealth of knowledge and experience to the table. I am honoured to host them here and look forward to sharing perspectives on best practices, challenges, opportunities and next steps in our respective countries and the region with regard to increasing women’s political participation – which I believe is key to strong and healthy democracies,” stated High Commissioner Whiting.
While considerable strides have been made throughout the region and in Canada in increasing and supporting women’s political participation, more work remains to be done. The objective of the initiative is to foster regional dialogue amongst women parliamentarians on an issue of global and regional importance. The dialogue will also provide a platform for constructive, positive discussions among participants with a view to identifying local and regional synergies and networks and identifying areas for future collaborations.