Activists are pressing political parties to choose more women as candidates in upcoming local elections.
Women constitute 52 percent of Sri Lanka’s 21 million population, but their representation in local politics is the lowest in South Asia.
More than 500 women and men gathered in the capital, Colombo, on Nov. 14 to press for the implementation of a 25% political candidate quota reserved for women.
Civil society groups as well as the Ministry of Provincial Councils and Local government and the Women and Child Affairs Ministry organized the event.
The national parliament passed the Local Authority Election (Amendment) Act No. 1 of 2016 to increase to 25 percent the mandatory quota for female representation in elections.
Chandrani Bandara, Minister of Women and Child Affairs, said that there are currently only 13 female parliamentarians out of 225 in the national legislature.
Women comprise only four per cent of members of provincial councils and two per cent of members of local government.
“In upcoming local government elections, the percentage of women can be increased from 2 percent to 25 percent,” Bandara said.
Senthini Suthakaran, from the Women Action Network for Transformation, said grassroots women should be brave and become local government election candidates.
Suthakaran, an ethnic Tamil activist, is seeking increased political representation for women in areas badly affected by the country’s 1983-2009 civil war.
“Politics will be a tool to empower them economically and socially,” she said.
Sister Christine Fernando, Sisters of Charity, said that there are many irregular inclusions on candidate lists due to the influence of powerful political families.
Many of these women candidates were more concerned with family interests than serving ordinary people, said Sister Fernando.
Another problem was that many women did not vote for women candidates, she added.