By Shannine Daniel
Telecommunications and Digital Infrastructure Minister Harin Fernando revealed that on his trip to Silicon Valley, plans were made with Microsoft to execute a program to create more job opportunities for women.
Speaking at the second Inter-Generational Dialogue hosted by the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) the minister opined that more jobs need to be created in the IT sector since women are underrepresented.
“In order to create more job opportunities, there are several different programs that we are trying to implement this year,” stated Fernando.
By 2017, the Government plans to offer 10,000 vocational training scholarships in IT targeted especially at women, since a majority of students that drop out of university each year are women he further stated.
According to the 2012 housing and consensus report by the Department of Census and Statistics, Sri Lankan women account for 59.7% of students enrolled in universities. This is however not reflected in the total labour force participation where there are only about 36% of women who participate in the labour force.
Fernando also stated that in encouraging the youth to participate in the IT field language will not be an issue because most of them are able to type Sinhalese words in English very well. He is confident that if given the proper training they will come right on top.
“It’s the best way that we can leapfrog this whole issue of unemployment among women,” he added.
Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Harsha De Silva emphasised on this topic as well stating that IT related jobs will be beneficial to a majority of women since many of them are burdened with taking care of their households and families. By partaking in these jobs they have the advantage of working from home since they will be able to complete their household chores and will not have to deal with the stress of travelling in public transport as well.
Statistics presented by the UNFPA have also shown that 62% of women of working age are economically inactive due to household chores.
“With the advent of the new digital economy that we are moving into there will be a host of new areas and opportunities, which will be helpful in getting women to participate in the labour force,” asserted De Silva.
In regard to the increase in cyber crimes, specifically sexual exploitation of women through the internet, Fernando stated that the Government definitely needs to take action against the discrimination that happens to women. He added that a legal document is being drawn up as a solution to this issue and will be presented to the cabinet in the next few months.
“As you know we are trying to digitalise our economy and we need to completely revamp our entire legal system in order to do so and we are very confident that this issue will also be sorted out,” he asserted.
Pix by Lasantha Kumara