Youth and women underrepresented in politics
Sri Lanka is still in a state of political turmoil following the end of civil war in 2009, democratic advancements in 2015 and transfers of power in 2019–2020. Implementation of the post-conflict reconciliation process begun after the 2015 elections, but since the 2019 presidential and 2020 parliamentary elections, this process has become significantly more difficult. The constitutional reform process has also taken a new turn, with the new administration seeking to increase the powers of the President. Major changes have taken place lately in the politicial party field, and the situation between parties in unstable. Recent years have been characterised by the postponement of elections due to COVID-19 situation, a constitutional crisis in 2018 and the terror attacks on Easter 2019. A risk of violent confrontations exists.
The participation of women and youth in politics is very low. The percentage of women in the Parliament is under 6 percent, but at the local level, the proportion of women is 23 percent thanks to a quota that was introduced in 2017. Political parties are led mostly by older men, and equal representation is not realised in the organisational structures of parties.
Our work in Sri Lanka
Together with our local partner One-Text Initiative (OTI) we supported the youth politicians of Sri Lanka to co-operate across political, ethnic and religious lines in 2015–2016. A series of workshops were organised that brought together youth politicians from the five party blocks represented in the country’s Parliament to discuss, learn and search for joint solutions and to establish peaceful and constructive political dialogue. A delegation of young Finnish MP’s visited the programme to provide trainings and take part in the dialogue.
In a new pilot project, started in 2019, Demo Finland and OTI enhance the political participation of women using a similar approach. The aim is to set up a network of female councillors where young female politicians from six districts can develop their political skills and co-operate. In addition, the project includes advocacy work to increase women’s share in the nomination lists of the elections.
Results of our work
- With the support of Demo Finland, youth from all parliamentary parties of Sri Lanka agreed to formally co-operate and engage in a constructive dialogue across party-borders for the first time in the country’s history.