WMC launched this project with the objectives of increasing women’s knowledge of local government, building their capacity to contest local government elections, helping them enable good governance, etc. In total 14 Local Councils were observed in 3 districts by 25 women observers. Observation teams were selected from The Women’s Resource Centre in Badulla, the Uva Wellasa Gami Kantha Organization in Monaragala and the Women’s Resource Centre in Kurunegala. They attended the monthly meetings of selected Local Councils and prepared six month reports.
The Local Councils observed in the three districts are as follows.
• Badulla District – Bandarawela, Hali Ela, Badulla and Passara Pradeshiya Sabha. Badulla andBandarawelaTown Councils.
• Monaragala District – Buttala, Monaragala, Badalkumbura and Siyambalanduwa Pradeshiya Sabha
• Kurunegala District – Ridigama, Ibbagamuwa, Wariapola and Kurunegala Pradeshiya Sabha
The completed activities for the period were the following.
1) Monitoring (Observing)
The observation teams attended monthly meetings of the selected Local Councils and observed local government processes. They shared their observations at monthly meetings held for the purpose. The main objectives in monitoring were identifying the key themes of the discussions, addressing of problems and related shortcomings.
2) Review and Planning Meetings
In February and August 2007, Consultations were held with the leaders of the community based organizations of the observation teams. Key observations made during the monitoring period including different strategies for monitoring were shared among the observers and a joint plan of work was drawn up for the coming months.
WMC organized and co-coordinated a Consultation with the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reforms in June 2007 in order to discuss the interim report of the Select Committee, specifically gender concerns. MP Dinesh Gunewardene presented the Interim Report of the Select Committee of Parliament on Electoral Reforms and consulted with the 40 women representatives from women’s groups who were present.
4) Strategy Planning and Capacity Building Workshop
A workshop was held in October 2007 for all the participants from the three districts who are engaged in observing 14 local councils to identify overall strategies to improve women’s participation in local government within the existing local government framework. The objectives of the workshop were to consolidate the key information obtained through a year of monitoring activities and finalizing a strategic plan of action for the upcoming year.
The keynote speech was made by the Secretary to Local Government Mr. D. P. Hettiarachchi on ‘Strategies to Overcome Challenges Faced at the Local Government Level’. The workshop was facilitated by the former secretary to the ministry Ms. Nandani Gunasekera. Minister Thalatha Athukorale shared her thoughts on ‘Women’s Participation in Politics in a Party-driven Political Environment’.
Ms. Uhulangani Malagamuwa spoke to the women on how she overcame the challenges she faced at the local government level and facilitated a discussion on how to overcome challenges women face. Dr. Sepali Kottegoda facilitated a session on report writing. The women also staged a play that summarized their experiences of monitoring local councils.