71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Item 27: Advancement of Women
Ms. Dilini Jayawardhene
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
10 October 2015
The Delegation of Sri Lanka associates itself with the statement made by Thailand on behalf of the G77 and China.
We also take note of the reports presented by the Secretary General under this agenda item.
The population in Sri Lanka in 2015 was 20.8 million, and the sex ratio suggested a higher number of women than men. This makes Sri Lanka one of the few Asian countries that has a sex ratio favourable towards women. During the past three decades, women in Sri Lanka have gained a significant progress in its social and economic indicators. At present, 97.2% of Sri Lankan girls complete their primary education, which is higher than the South Asian regional median. Female students dominate the professional fields of law, medicine, banking, finance and teaching. Access for health care facilities for women has greatly improved and is evident in the decrease of Maternal Mortality Rate, 63 per 100,000 live births in 1998 to 29 in 2013.
The Government of Sri Lanka is currently focusing on three priority areas on women’s empowerment, namely: (1) women’s economic enhancement, (2) elimination of violence against women; and (3) women’s engagement in public and political life.
Mme. Chairperson, Sri Lanka has fully recognized the important contribution that female workforce makes to the economic development in the county. Changing demographics of Sri Lanka also clearly indicate that the future economy of the country will ultimately depend on the economic contribution of women and young people. In this scenario, as a long term strategy, Sri Lanka deems that supporting rural women to actively participate in the rural economies as an essential element. In this regard, most of the allocations given for rural economic development projects are channeled for the economic enhancement of women.
Sri Lanka’s approach towards the issue of Violence Against Women is three fold which contain (1) Prevention (2) intervention and (3) advocacy for the formulation of policies and laws. In March 2015, the Government approved a set of recommendations presented by the Prime Minister on ‘Preventing Sex and Gender based Violence’. These recommendations are mainly aimed at augmenting the current state structure working to address this issue, stemming from the community level to national level. Sri Lanka has also taken steps to implement the joint UN Programme on Prevention of and Response to Gender-based Violence funded by the UN Women.
Women’s political participation in Sri Lanka, Mme. Chairperson, is comparatively less than that of the other countries in the region. This is despite having elected the world’s first woman Prime Minister, way back in 1960. One of the main factors for this remains the lack of empowerment of women in the political arena. Increasing criminalization of politics during the conflict period was also a factor which discouraged the active participation of women in politics in the recent past. To address this issue, the Government has proposed a minimum number of female candidates that should be comprised in the candidature lists proposed by the political parties in local elections. We believe that this would be the first step in empowering women to come forward into mainstream politics.
As a country which has come out from a long drawn conflict, Sri Lanka has recognized the positive contribution that women could make to the society as agents of reconciliation and agents of peace building. With a view to empower women in reconciliation efforts, a number of projects have been implemented throughout the country. These include peace building projects by the UN agencies. We believe that more participation of women in these programmes would make peace building in Sri Lanka, a more inclusive and productive process. The government is particularly engaging the female headed households from the former conflict affected areas to take part in these peace building programmes.
Although women in Sri Lanka have made many positive strides, there are also several challenges that we must overcome. The labor force participation rate of women has never reached to a satisfactory level. Over 25% of households in Sri Lanka are headed by women. These households needed to be given special attention by assessing their condition, identifying their vulnerabilities and to addressing their needs. The Government has set up a National Committee on Female-Headed Households and a National Centre for Female Headed Households – with a view to integrate female heads of households into the workforce and to secure them with sustainable livelihoods. However, there are many challenges ahead of us.
In conclusion Mme. Chairperson, I wish to re-iterate that Sri Lanka firmly believes that women are the agents of change and their valuable contribution is essential for the development of our societies.
I thank you Mme. Chairperson.