December 2023

Overcoming Obstacles to Women’s Political Representation

An awareness programme on women’s participation in politics was held under NPC’s Women Organized for Inclusion Through Community Engagement project (WOICE).

Dr. Indhi Akurugoda, Head of the Department of Government Policy and Politics at the University of Ruhuna, underscored the urgent need for increased female representation since there were only 12 women MPs in a parliament of 225. She pointed out the contradiction between the 92% literacy rate among women and their under representation in political positions.

The Divisional Secretary’s Office in Weligama, where the programme was conducted, became the platform for social change. With more than 150 women leaders and local representatives from the Matara District in attendance, WOICE partnered with the Sahana Social Development Alliance Matara to conduct the programme, which gave participants valuable insights into the root causes of women's limited participation in politics.

WOICE Super Group member, Mrs. R.G.A.K. Rajapaksha, pointed out that women faced a societal backlash when attempting to enter politics including discouragement from children and husbands. Similarly Mrs. Fathumma Nihara, coming from a Muslim background, shared the additional restrictions that Muslim women faced.

In response Dr. Akurugoda encouraged the start to a political journey in smaller settings such as the workplace or starting a non profit organization. In her experience, building confidence and gradually asserting one’s independence were starting points. It was also important to educate the family about civil rights, she said. Her message was to start small, build confidence and gradually extend influence into rural politics.

The workshop concluded with a call to action: challenge societal norms, overcome obstacles and actively participate in politics. Collective efforts through the WOICE project aimed to reshape the landscape of women's participation in politics, one empowered leader at a time.