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Advocata panel finds many barriers for women to enter politics

ECONOMYNEXT – A panel discussion hosted by the think tank Advocata has highlighted myriad issues that prevent more women from entering politics in Sri Lanka, a statement from the organisation said.

The discussion identified key factors that prevent women from entering politics.

The first, they found was “pedigree” politics or the promotion of family members at the cost of other qualified party members.

Another crucial barrier was the sheer cost of campaigns.

“We believe that there needs to be a level playing field as skyrocketing campaigning costs deprive competent and hardworking women the opportunity to enter parliament,” the panel found.

Enacting a campaign finance laws and introducing reforms that will bring in much-needed transparency into the process was seen as essential.

The panellists felt that there is an urgent need to bring in a mandatory quota of women into Provincial Councils as well as Parliament.

Among other recommendations were; encouraging women to obtain a varied education, empowering female leadership in our communities, and introducing a mandatory quota for women in the National list for major political parties.

The discussion took place in the background of the World Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum which ranked Sri Lanka amongst the top 20 countries in 2006.

Since then Sri Lanka has drastically slipped in the rankings and has descended to be ranked 102 out of 153 countries in the year 2020 despite performing well on other indicators such as health and education, the release said.

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Given the myriad of issues Sri Lankan women face; ranging from discriminatory laws, taxes that disproportionately affect women, and labour laws that impede their entry and retention in the labour force, it is all the more important that women are represented in parliament.

The panellists for the discussion were Dr Sujata Gamage (Advisor to the Advocata Institute), Vraie Cally Balthazaar (Social Entrepreneur, Activist, Media Professional), Lihini Fernando (Member of Moratuwa Municipal Council, Attorney at Law, Women’s Activist) and Sherien Perera (Marketer, Corporate Trainer). The session was moderated by Sathya Karunarathne (Research Executive (Policy) Advocata Institute).

(Colombo September 9, 2020)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana