Activists and academics ask for separate Cabinet Ministry for Women’s Affairs
ECONOMYNEXT – The downgrading of women and children’s affairs from Cabinet to State level has resulted in disappointed citizens and activists writing to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, requesting him to re-establish a separate ministry for women and children.
In the letter addressed to the President and copied to Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, the group states that placing women and children under a State Ministry overseeing Pre-schools, primary education, infrastructure development of schools and educational services, is an indication that the government ‘considers the important area of women’s and children’s affairs, an area of narrow interest, that require minimum resources and limited interventions.
The signatories point out that for four decades, successive governments had recognised that the wellbeing of women who constitute 13 million (51%) and children, 6 million (25%) must be addressed if progress and national development of a country is to be achieved.
The new ministries and state ministries were announced on Tuesday, August 11.
Well documented research indicates not only the high level of unemployment amongst women but also that women and children continue to face violence, abuse and exploitation which is why a Cabinet Ministry is required to implement ‘ proactive policy planning, law reform and resource allocation at the highest levels of government,’ the group writes.
“Undoubtedly, there will be severe restriction of resource allocation with an abundance of logistical issues hindering women’s and children’s affairs, which are amalgamated with other vital components in Education under the provision of a State Ministry. Considering the current crisis situation of ensuring the protection and welfare of women and children, we cannot envisage that the proposed State Ministry will accomplish an efficient and progressive national service,” says the letter.
It was during the J R Jayewardene government that a Women’s Bureau was first established in 1978 under the Ministry of Plan Implementation. Later, in 1997, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs was established with children’s affairs being included as part of the Ministry’s responsibilities around 2005/2006.
Some of the main responsibilities of the Women and Child Affairs Ministry, as gazetted in 2015 are the ‘formulation of policies, programmes and projects, monitoring and evaluation in regard to the subjects of women, implementation and strengthening of laws and policies for the prevention of women and child abuse, formulation and implementation of strategies for the enhancement of women’s participation and their representation in the sphere of decision making in public affairs and politics and formulation and implementation of plans, programmes and projects to promote rights of vulnerable children in line with national policies and international standards, thereby ensuring equal opportunities for them’.