South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

CEO OF Vilindu an NGO working on good governance Shanthi Sachichanandam

Women should be included in political parties and we have been working in one district as pilot program to take women who are active in politics at district levels. We created profiles for them on their ability to mobilize people on their own account essential for democracy and also change in political culture. We can’t point to examples like President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

In Trincomalee out of the 113 local authority members only four women were elected due to the shortfall in the nomination list. What we did was to lobby party leaders, district organizers, after doing all that. We found that last few days former members, current Pradeshiya Sabha Members are scared of the kind of competition from their female counterparts.

We applied ten Muslim to be included in the nomination list and the SLMC told me its against their culture and they cant do that. Again the chairman of the UPFA told that we had to get a clearance from the Council of Ullama’s if they were to consider including a Muslim woman in the nominations. The only alternative is to form an independent group for the sake of an alternative opinion in the mainstream politics.

Women and Media Collective Director Dr. Sepali Kottegoda

Women’s representation in local Government elections is something women’s organizations have been debating and have made comprehensive proposals about it for decades. We need to have temporary measures to facilitate women to be given an opportunity to be nominated by respective political parties. Since the quota system is long delayed by respective political parties whenever they are in power. There needs to be some sort of measures to ensure women are represented if they can’t look beyond a quota system. They have to pick up and move forward with the 2002 parliamentary proceedings where they agreed that there was a less than 2 per cent representation of women at local government election and there needs to legal binding.

Women and Media Collective Director  Kumudini Samuel

January 27th will be the last day to hand over nominations for the LGE. We will get to see how many political parties fielded women on their nomination list. We have been working with other women’s organization in five districts and we have given political parties names of 151 women from which they can pick and choose to be included in the nomination list. There are only 1.8 per cent seats won by women at the local government elections. The assumption is that women are not their or they can’t win. But the political parties don’t understand that if women are not nominated they can’t win.

In this country people vote for political parties they won’t vote for an independent party. Therefore these women need to be nominated by political party. We have got together with women from all political parties since it’s is critical that they include a fair amount of women in to the nomination list. In the 151 women we have suggested we have women who worked at the local level for their communities, for their party candidates they are conversant of the local government laws and most importantly they understand their responsibility. We were careful with the people we selected from the community level.

But we don’t know how many of these women will make it to the nomination list. We urge political parties to nominate since they barely nominated any women during the last elections. From the time of parliamentary electoral system was setup all the women in most political parties have been advocating to reserve a quota for nominations, not seats at local elections. Mahinda Chintana of 2004 promised 3 per cent nominations for women at local government elections. Then last year the President said they will increase womens representation with no figure given.

The UNP at the parliamentary election they promised to give a 30% quota for women’s nomination at local government. So we can say that both parties have promised they have not delivered. What they told us was there are no women but since then now they said they needed winning candidates in women. For that matter Tamil political parties put forward 30% women in their quota and that is how four women won the Jaffna municipal council elections.

Highest number of women represented next to Colombo is in Trincomalee.

UNP Women’s wing leader Thalatha Athukorale

We have been asking for more women representation of women in local government. Due to so many reasons it is difficult in the current context. As a political party we requested the election reform committee to include a quota for women which was headed by Minister Dinesh Gunawardena. But it was not done. I don’t think they considered any of those things when it comes to holding elections. As a party we want women’s representation legalized which will ensure female candidates coming forward for elections. I’m in the midst of finalizing the nomination list we are facing great difficulty.

Source: The Daily Mirror – 26.01.2011