Background: Youth and women underrepresented in politics

Sri Lanka is still in a state of political turmoil after the end of the civil war in 2009 and democratic advancements in 2015. The post-conflict reconciliation process has not been fully implemented, the constitutional reform process has not been completed and the situation between political parties is very tense.

The participation of women and youth in politics is very low. Only 2,5 percent of the Members of Parliament are under 30 years old, even though they make up for 23 percent of the population. The percentage of women in the Parliament is under 6 percent, the number being even lower on the local level. Political parties are led mostly by older men, and equal representation is not realized in the organizational 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 organized 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:

  • The political youth from all parliamentary parties of Sri Lanka have agreed to formally co-operate and engage in a constructive dialogue across party-borders for the first time in the country’s history.