The Sunday Leader

Increasing Female Participation In Elections

by Ashanthi Warunasuriya

Proposed legislation that requires political parties and independent groups to have at least 25 per cent female representation on their lists of candidates when contesting local government elections was recently approved in parliament, and many have commended the government’s move.

Female representation in Sri Lankan politics is significantly minute. However, it has been a topic of discussion among the masses for many years. If any woman had ever entered politics, in most cases, she did so because of her political background. Otherwise, only a handful of women survived in politics because of their popularity and other such reasons. They have made an immense struggle to maintain their stability in Sri Lankan politics.

In recent time, Sri Lanka witnessed many actresses becoming politicians overnight. It was unfortunate to see some women who had no relevant experience or capability getting pushed up on the political ladder. Such political appointments had done little for the betterment of women’s standard in the country.

However, everyone agrees that the existing political culture that looks down upon women has to be changed. The challenge ahead that the political parties now face is how to use this 25 per cent quota of female representation more effectively for the betterment of the country. It is the responsibility of these political parties to nominate intelligent and honest female candidates for future elections.

The following are some of the comments made by several well-known female politicians and social activists in the country on the matter.

 

Geetha KumarasingheUPFA MP

When we consider the Asian region, even countries with a more traditional culture such as India have a higher female representation in politics than Sri Lanka has. In our country, the situation is even more lamentable. If a woman tries to contest an election, everyone is banding together to attack her from all fronts. I know it very well from my experience. I have faced many obstacles and challenges that were worth of mentioning in books. This situation discourages women from entering politics. This is a hard job. We talk about women only on Women’s Day. Will a 25 per cent of female representation suffice? In parenthood, childhood and even in education women are being battered. However in all fields, women do better than men.

Look how hard it is for us to acquire a time slot in parliament to make a statement. Sometimes, it is harder than contesting elections. Only a handful of politicians work for the betterment of the voters. Most of the politicians have obtained privileges through undue manners. Sometimes an MP post rolls from the husband to wife and vise versa. Sometimes it goes from father to daughter. This is how women tend to enter politics nowadays. My husband does not like politics. So is my daughter. So these are problems faced by female politicians. There is little use of granting a 25 per cent quota for women. From where do we find suitable candidates to fill that quota? We have witnessed how Rosy Senanayake was treated when she was in the opposition. Even after working hard for many years, she was never given a respectable position in the party. There is a shortage of intelligent and honest women in politics. So we must help such people come forward in politics.

No government in power so far has been able to do anything significant to raise the social standard of women.

The fault lies in our bureaucratic system. Even though development coordination committees have been appointed, many more try to harm us than those who would like to work with us. This is the bitter truth at present. Whatever happens, women have a sense of shame. This weak point is usurped by men. Most of the time, women are only given the Ministry Women and Children’s affairs. Other countries act differently. So it must be asked whether by granting a 25 per cent quota, the government is trying to put women in jeopardy by dragging them through a world of pain. That issue is equally necessary to look at before raising the bars.

Politics is filled with thugs and narcotic vendors. So we have been compelled to deal with them. Therefore, before imposing these quotas, the government must first ensure safer and honorable environment for women to carry out their political activities.

 

—————————————————–

 

K. P. SomawathiChairman, Uva Wellassa Social Organization

It is good to see a 25 per cent of female representation on the candidate lists. This is the first time in Sri Lanka politics that women receive a high political representation. But to make this effective, the political parties must take steps to nominate women who have a real understanding about the social problems faced by women and who have a genuine interest in working towards the betterment of women. Every woman must be made aware of these social issues. Only a woman who is capable of having her own views about the socioeconomic and political problems in the country can make a true difference. The female representatives in parliament today are not talking about problems faced by women. They have been unable to create a charismatic female leader. It is only by talking about the real problems of women, we could go for better policy decisions. For that, there must be an entity capable of recognizing the problems of women. Today the political parties are only concerned about those who can carry out better election campaigns. So in the end, they are going to act as obedient servants. There is no use of such women. This proposal was brought in by a male prime minister. So we are going to empower women in grassroots levels to rise up to this challenge. In the future, we would bring forward out suggestions. There is little use of having even a 50 per cent incapable representation of women. So we must first empower women so they can make a difference.

 

—————————————————-

 

Padmini WeerasuriyaChairman, Center For Women

For many years, our women’s organizations have been talking about this issue. Finally attention of the authorities have taken steps to make things right. Because of our continued political demands, we were able to win this 25 per cent quota. At present, we have selected 6 districts and will visit the general public to raise their awareness in order to represent capable females. With institutions like Free Trade Zones where a large number of females work, we could really make a change. We are empowering women to resolve disputes and formulate policies independently. We hope to build up a good rapport with political party organizers with the supports of the government.

 

—————————————————–

 

Daya HerathChairman, Lakbima Mothers and Daughters Organization

We urged for a quota of 25 per cent female representation in order to raise a strong voice in parliament. We have been talking about this issue by holding seminars and distributing leaflets for many years. There should be female leaders who could talk about issues that women face. In the past, the country earned its largest revenue by exporting tea, rubber, and coconuts. But at present, it’s the income sent by women who work abroad. But they are the most oppressed group in the country. So 25 per cent of female representation in politics is essential to talk about these burning issues in parliament. However, these female politicians should be able to deal with those issues effectively. Our organization empowers learned and capable women to enter politics. Just because a woman is beautiful or has a foreign degree, she must not be included in politics. So the task should start from the ground level. We are raising the public awareness in electing worthy females to the governing bodies.

 

——————————————————

 

Chandrani BandaraMinister Of Women’s Affairs

The 25 per cent is taken in as a quota. Here there are two list; first, the seat organizer’s list of female representative. Here preference can be given to learned women. Then after the election, organizers can get together with their political party leaderships and nominate female representatives to the national lists; that is the second.

Here they can select women who are intelligent and capable of achieving something worthy in politics. When an election is declared, the parties can present these lists. This is going to be compulsory. We have given the responsibility to political parties in this regard. So it’s up to the political parties to nominate qualified individuals.

 

——————————————————

 

Karunarathna ParanawithanaDeputy Minister Of Local Governments

When the Local government elections happen, under whatever method it takes place, each party must give an additional list of women’s candidates apart from their lists of candidates. According to the percentage of votes a party takes, their national list is made. For an example, the party that gets 50 per cent of the votes by its general list gets 50 per cent of votes for its women’s candidate list. This is how women’s LG members are filled. Let’s think that a LG has 16 female members, the party that takes 50 per cent of the votes receives 8 LG memberships and a party that receives 25 per cent of votes will get 4 LG memberships in that particular LG body.

In future, a campaign would be done to promote this movement with the relevant ministry and departments. Women also should grab this opportunity. With the past election system, women could not contest. Election is won by violence and money. Nominations are given for such cases. Now none of it is in the current election system. So women can now contest elections without fear.

 

—————————————————–

 

Dr. Nimalka FernandoAn Activist

The parliament under siege by former dictator’s goons succeeded in passing the Local Authorities Election (Amendment) Bill. The objective of the Bill is to amend the Local Authorities Elections Ordinance (Chapter 252) by introducing provisions to increase women’s representation in Municipal Councils, Urban Councils, and Pradeshiya Sabhas by 25 per cent.

The amendment contains new political culture that we are striving to nourish since January 8, 2015 amidst all conspiracies and political manouvers to disrupt and bring disrepute to the victory. The women of this country have shown resilience bearing the burden of war and destruction. The wives of soldiers held the homes together. The women in the north and east similarly have kept the social fabric together in the war torn regions. Since 1977, women have been main pillars of our economy working in the investment promotion zones and abroad. Their life stories have been unmatched by the `slogans’ promoted by political leaders. The former regime called them `Heroes of the country’ but allowed Rizana to have been killed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is also after the new government came into power, we were able to get pardon for a migrant worker who was facing criminal allegations.

The women in this country who worked for this change are seeing a new era now. The LG amendment has to be viewed within this larger context. Law alone will not give us victory. Now the challenge is in our hands. At a meeting held recently by the Women’s Political Academy the following recommendations were made:

Political parties should facilitate an action plans to identify and provide resources for women to make use of this opportunity, party leaders should refrain from asking questions as to `how much can you spend?’. While campaigns definitely require resources such questions are often asked to deflate their enthusiasm. The recommendations also suggest that maintaining transparency during the preparation of the list is imperative.

The SC judgment is very important bench mark in making the election process free and fare. We have seen how scoundrels have been elected to parliament through national lists. Some persons do not even show their face till the names are gazetted like they did during the recent parliament election. We do not want such women. Every party must nominate women who are active in the community. After all, local governments should be linked to the development of our villages and communities. This is definitely not about numbers but about building a new force of women who can participate in designing and implementing `progress’ in Sri Lanka.

 

 

Comments are closed

Photo Gallery

Log in | Designed by Gabfire themes