Sunday, June 24, 2018 08:57:57 AM

Women’s Representation and Participation in Formal Politics

By Daisy Perry - Sun Jun 10, 2:19 am

Featured image by Sri Lanka Brief

Despite the drive for gender equality promoted at the Beijing UN World Conference on Women in 1995, the Sri Lankan state appears to have taken little responsibility for narrowing the gender gap in political representation. Savitri Goonesekere explains this as a “non-recognition of the problem” while Kumari Jayawardena has observed that Sri Lanka has produced a female prime minister and president without confronting the patriarchy that exists across society. While these are credible explanations, the lack of progress in female representation is also part of a pattern of patriarchal  State dominance and its power to render feminist discourses silent. One result of this subordination is that there are currently only 13 female Members of Parliament out of 225.

In order to understand the changes that need to be implemented to increase women’s voices in national politics, the author interviewed Rosy Senanayake, United National Party (UNP) MP for Colombo from 2010 to 2015, Deputy Chief of Staff from 2015 to 2018, and currently, the first female mayor of Colombo, Ferial Ashraff, Sri Lankan Freedom Party (SLFP) MP for Ampara in the Eastern Province from 2001 to 2010; and Jeevanee Kariyawasam, attorney at law, human resource development trainer and former SLFP Urban Council Member for Chilaw in the North Western Province from 2011-2015. Conversations with these women revealed that although in many ways their political trajectories vary due to their individual personalities, as well as intersections with class, religion, ethnicity and political affiliations, there are similarities that emerge in their experiences. By observing patterns in their participation, these have been divided into what Mariz Tadros refers to as “enabling” and “disabling” factors in political life. Although, given the small sample, these may not hold true for all women in Sri Lankan politics, the interviews reveal some distinct parallels….

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