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ECONOMYNEXT – Women contribute significantly to Sri Lanka’s economy and the government is committed to increasing women’s representation in parliament and their participation in decision making, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said in a women’s day message recognising their support in rebuilding a collapsed economy.

In a statement issued Wednesday March 08 morning, Wickremesinghe said the establishment of a National Women’s Commission as an independent body through an Act of Parliament has been envisaged, while the need to appoint an Ombudswoman has also been recognised.

“The Government is further committed to increasing women participation in management and political decision-making, and therefore has implemented a comprehensive program to secure an increase of women’s representation not only in Parliament, but also in the public and private sectors,” he said.

“In addition, the measures required to present to Parliament, the Act on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment have already been initiated. It is also envisaged for a National Women’s Commission to be established as an independent body through an Act of Parliament. Further, the need to appoint an Ombudswoman as well as women to Directorate Boards in the fields of plantations and apparel have been recognised.”

Wickremesinghe, who once held the portfolio of women’s affairs, said the government has already implemented plans to empower women with required skills based on equality, in order to broadly contribute to the country’s economy.

In December 2022, President Wickremesinghe proposed a new bill on gender equality and women’s empowerment to be submitted to parliament. In Sri Lanka, critics say violence against women is not dealt with with the seriousness it demands.

Despite the island nation being the first country to produce the first woman prime minister and president, very few women join active politics despite more than half of the population being women.

There are also only a handfuls of women at the higher levels of top corporates.

Sri Lanka has only 12 lawmakers in the 225-member legislature. Most women politicians complain that their party leadership do not provide them them opportunities they deserve.

Wickremesinghe’s last 2015-2019 government enacted a law to mandatorily allocate 25 percent of the local government seats to women from 2018 local government polls. However, no women were given opportunities for decision making.

In his 2023 women’s day message, he said: “I extend warm greetings on this International Women’s Day, being confident of the support of the female generation of this country in its entirety, in order to facilitate the government’s new reform program in rebuilding the country’s collapsed economy and create a successful ‘Developed Nation in 2048’. (Colombo/Mar08/2023)

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