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* Nation with 1st female PM still pushes for women's role
Mon, Mar 20, 2017, 06:53 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Mar 20 (Korea Times) Sri Lanka is a middle income country with a high Human Development Index comparable with developed countries. The country since gaining independence in 1948 has followed a combination of welfare state policies

including universal free education and free health care which has resulted in the elimination of gender- and class-based discrimination in access to education, and upward social mobility of both women and men across social strata. Education is free from primary to undergraduate levels, and the age of compulsory education was extended from 14 to 16 years in 2016.

Sri Lanka, which significantly increased female literacy from 43.8% in 1947 to 92% in 2013, has today achieved gender parity in enrolment in primary, secondary and tertiary education. The percentage of female students in universities and non-vocational tertiary education is higher than that of male students; and there is 50% or more female representation in all undergraduate academic streams except engineering, where female representation is still at 20.46 percent. The latter imbalance is being addressed.

As a result of women's equal access to education, the participation of women in professional services and in senior and middle ranking positions in the state and corporate sectors have seen a steady increase. Women in Sri Lanka today hold senior positions as secretaries of ministries and departments; heads of diplomatic missions and the judiciary. Sri Lanka has had a woman chief justice and a woman attorney general. The administrative and planning services have 48%, and the Foreign Service 52% female representation. The latter includes 15 women heads of mission/post.

Sri Lanka, which was a model Commonwealth nation when it gained independence, is also known for gaining universal adult franchise in 1931, for electing a woman to the Legislative Assembly the same year, and for having elected the world's first woman Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, in 1960. Sri Lanka also elected a woman president (1994 to 2005). Yet, Sri Lanka today has a low percentage of women in legislative bodies (under 6 percent). The government today is making concerted efforts to rectify this anomaly. A policy decision was taken in 2015 to increase political representation of women by 25 percent in the second and third tiers of government, i.e., in provincial councils and local government bodies. Accordingly, the Local Government Elections Act was amended in February 2016 to include a 25 percent quota for women in local government bodies. Additionally, a cabinet paper has been submitted to obtain a 30 percent nomination for women at the provincial council elections.

With the introduction of a quota for women legislative members in local government, the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs and civil society have launched awareness programmes in all districts targeting women's groups affiliated with political parties and community leaders, to encourage and facilitate women's entry into local government. The Ministry has also introduced a diploma programme with the University of Peradeniya to encourage women's political participation at all levels. The Women's Caucus in parliament, which comprises 13 women members of parliament out of 225, continues to play a leadership and advocacy role to achieve greater representation of women at the national legislature. Sri Lanka's decision to become a signatory to the Open Government Partnership in 2016 also contains a commitment to increase women's participation in politics.

It is envisaged that the approval received from the cabinet of ministers this February to set up an independent National Commission on Women will further strengthen efforts by government and civil society to establish a legally empowered institution to address women's issues.

Read More:: KT (Source)