Photo Courtesy of Verite Research

Sri Lanka’s women are literate and well educated with a 92.3 percent literacy rate and 1.4 female students for every one male student enrolled in tertiary education.

However these high numbers are not translated to workplace participation that stands at a low 31.8%.

Neither is it reflected in women who hold positions of power, especially in the political sphere. While there has been a gradual increase in women’s participation in politics from only 1.8% of parliamentary seats being held by women in 2000, reflecting the significant barriers they faced in entering politics, to 5.8% in 2010, this figure was low compared to regional and global averages.

As of 2020, women held 5.4% of seats in the national parliament, indicating a need for continued efforts to improve representation. Challenges such as cultural norms and limited support structures continued to impede further progress. However, ongoing advocacy and policy measures aim to create a more inclusive political environment for women.

The introduction of a 25% quota for women in local government bodies in 2016 marked a significant policy shift, aiming to address the gender gap in political representation. The impact of the quota was evident in the 2018 local government elections where women’s representation surged to approximately 29%. This increase highlighted the effectiveness of affirmative action policies in enhancing women’s political participation.

Groundviews spoke to Dr Geethika Dharmasinghe senior lecturer at the Colombo University, Nalini Rathnarajah women’s human rights defender from Batticaloa and Mazeena Bucker former Moratuwa Municipal Council member on the importance of women in politics.