As Sri Lanka prepares for Parliamentary elections to be held in the month of April, we urge all political parties to fulfil the commitments they have made nationally and internationally to strengthen women’s political participation in the country.
Women’s issues feature heavily in the campaign promises of all parties during any election, while the number of women in their nomination lists remain inadequate. We thus call on parties to place women with a commitment to gender equality in winnable positions on party lists and in constituencies.
The support from the respective parties must however extend beyond the nomination. It is essential to ensure continued support for women candidates through adequate financing and fostering a safe environment in which they can campaign.
Despite high social indicators, women continue to face many challenges in Sri Lanka. These challenges are compounded by other struggles they may face due to their ethnicity, religion, socio-economic background, or sexual orientation and gender identity. Experienced and committed women representatives could be a significant step in addressing these issues, through policy development and sustainable change.
We recognise that restrictive gender norms and patriarchal values contribute to the underrepresentation of women in civic and political spaces. We call upon all policy makers to challenge these norms and biases, so that women, men, and all who do not conform to stereotypical gendered roles can contest on a level playing field.
On this International Women’s Day, LST urges all parties to use the forthcoming election to increase women’s political participation and support women’s leadership, ensuring that women’s voices are in focus as a step towards this larger goal. Sri Lanka cannot achieve its potential unless it is founded on a policy of inclusive participation.