We take immense pleasure and pride in producing the world first female Prime Minister Srimavo Bandaranaike in 1960 and her daughter Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga the first female president in 1994.
It is ideal now to explore the history of female participation in Sri Lankan politics in the past to have a clear picture.
The establishment of universal suffrage in Sri Lanka in 1931 offered women the right to vote on the same basis as men. Just three years later, women in Great Britain and rightly more than a decade in the United States obtained this right. Ceylon was the first British Colony to achieve universal suffrage and no woman contested the first elections to the State Council.
However, in November 1931, following the death of her father, Adeleine Molamure contested the Ruwanwella seat and won with a majority of over 9,000. Naysur Saravanamuttu was the second woman to be elected to the State Council from Colombo North. At the first Parliament post-Independence, in 1948, only two women were elected, both from Lanka Sama Samaja Party. The percentage of women in parliament between the 1930s and the present has never exceeded 5%.
Women representation in LG elections
In this context, the present government has reserved 25% for women representation in the local government elections. The women all over the world demand equal rights. In the meantime, in our Constitution, Chapter 12 (1) and14 (1) G women have been sanctioned equal position. Unlike the previous governments, the present government is considering about women and their participation in politics and other core activities of the country.
In this regard, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe plays a vital role in providing them with a due place in every sector. To give more emphasis on the women participation he has nominated Rosy Senanayake as a mayoral candidate to Colombo Municipal Council.
But there are still some practical problems which thwart women’s involvement in politics. There is a tendency among Sri Lankans that women cannot involve in politics without the support and back up from men.
In practical Sri Lankan politics, women need a sort of bravery and boldness to contest and win the election. That era has been changed by the incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Moreover, the percentage of women’s population is nearly 57% and their percentage of participation in politics is merely 5%. This is illogical and unfair thus the women should take more interest in politics because they can bring their problems to the limelight and obtain justice and solution for their problems.
It goes without saying that certain category of women in society hides and suppresses their problems because of the chauvinistic attitude of men and leads a life with a lot of grievances.
Contribution to economy
Women are innately kind and honest in their work and their contribution is significant to the economic growth and development of the country. That’s why the former President Chandrika Bandaranaike once quoted the Kenyan Bishop Ndimbe’s memorable words: “Train a man, you train an individual, train a woman you build a nation.” This is the same as saying that the “hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.
Although the government made compulsory every party and Independent group should include 25% women in their respective nomination list it will not bring real and realistic women participation unless/ until they make 25% in the selected members of the local government members.
This is also notable among the female Prime Ministers in the SAARC regions. Sheikh Hasina is the present Prime Minister of Bangladesh and in the past, Benazir Bhutto was the Prime Minister of Pakistan and Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India.
The female rulers show the real and active participation in the region. Besides, there are women in the world blessed with highest and responsible positions. There is always a discriminatory factor that always keeps women suppressed but now they have overcome all kinds of hurdles.
A classic example is Susanthika Jayasinghe who brought glory and credit to the country by winning a bronze medal in Olympic. She is one only woman athlete who won the medal in the history of the sport of Sri Lanka.
One more rare achievement recently made by Jayathma Wickramanayake by being elected youth Secretary to the Secretary-General of United Nations Organisation. There is a possible way to increase the membership of women in the Local, Provincial and Parliamentary Government by prioritising the national list representations.