Discussion on increasing women’s political representation

With the government ensuring a 25% representation of women in Local Government bodies, the Women and Media Collective and the International Centre for Ethnic Studies facilitated a discussion on the Local Authorities Elections Amendment Act of 2012. The discussion focused on increasing representation of women under the mixed electoral system.

The backdrop to the Act was revisited by Kumudini Samuel, Programme and Research Associate of Women and Media Collective. “We will take a look at the mixed electoral system as proposed in the Local Authorities Elections Amendment Act no 22 of 2012. We are all here because of the history of women’s representation in politics. Currently only 2% of women are represented in Local Government. We have had many discussions with political parties and governments on the possibilities of increasing representation of women in politics” she said. Women and Media Collective has been working towards increasing the representation of women in Parliament, Provincial Councils and Local Government since the 1990’s and has been urging governments for a quota for nominations and well as for elected female candidates. Women’s organisations have also pushed this through the Women’s Charter which was adopted in 1993 along with the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reforms that was appointed under the Chairmanship of Dinesh Gunawardena.

Chulani Kodikkara of the International Centre for Ethnic Studies provided a brief history of women’s activism with regard to increasing representation for women in politics. While reminding the audience that reserving seats for women in political bodies have been talked about for years by women’s groups Koddikkara recollected significant moments in history for women’s representation.

Stating that women’s representation is a highly relevant topic at this juncture Gayani Premathilaka, Legal Officer of the Ministry of Local Government and Provincial Councils, gave a special presentation on the mixed electoral system.