Minister of Women and Child Affairs Chandrani Bandara Jayasinghe is entrusted with the duty of playing a proactive role -- both inside and outside Parliament -- to ensure women and children’s rights are safeguarded. Speaking to the Daily Mirror the Minister explained the vital platform necessary for more female representation in the Sri Lankan economy, politics, education and industry, while highlighting the significance of empowering both women and children in an aim to uplift their welfare progress.
Q Compared to the past elections there was a strong outcry by civil activist movements to increase women’s participation in politics. But this hadn’t made any changes in the voting pattern of the people, and as usual they had voted for a massive majority of males? What is the reason for this?
The battle was between the two main political parties, and the campaign was to get at least 113 seats to form a Government. Hence the campaign to increase female candidates in Parliament was diluted in the campaign process. On the other hand, women candidates were unable to spend large amounts of money for the election campaign compared to males. Competition among the candidates in the same party was also high.
"We are planning to launch a campaign against harassment at public transport and public places during 16 days of activism which fall in November."
Q Do you believe that there should be more women participating in politics?
Exactly. The female population is more than 50%, women comprised nearly 40% in the employment sector, they are better educated and that women proved to be better financial managers. Women are better qualified, hence, female representation should be made 30% in Parliament, Provincial Councils and in the Local Government bodies.
Q With the increase of extreme violence against children, especially female children; it doesn’t seem that Sri Lanka is a safe place for them. Why have the Government institutions failed to curb this dangerous trend?
The Government has taken adequate measures. The law is stringent. Law enforcement authorities are in place and referral services and free legal services are available. But mainly the parents should be more vigilant on children’s safety and should have protective measures. Children need more love and attention from their parents.
"Women are better qualified, hence, female representation should be made 30% in Parliament, Provincial Councils and in the Local Government bodies."
Q Where did this trend start and how do you think we can put a stop to it?
This is not a new trend. But it has increased as a result of technological advancements, especially through social media. We should adopt a holistic approach for this issue. It is not only the State but civil society organizations, but also parents and religious leaders should get together and advocate to build a just society embedded with values. Moreover, we should establish vigilant committees at grassroots level to work against violence on children and women.
Q What is the guarantee as the Minister you can give to ensure that Sri Lanka is a safe place for children?
Compared with other countries, Sri Lanka is a safe place for children. The new Government which follows the principles of good governance is imposing stringent measures to eradicate the alcohol and drug menace. Corruption is not entertained. We should have awareness programmes for mothers on the protection of children and zero tolerance should be shown on violence against women.
Q Are there any changes or addition of new laws and policies to make better protection of children and women?
The Ministry is currently preparing an Action Plan on Gender Based Violence with participation of eight ministries. The National Plan of Action for Women is being updated to cover the period 2016-2020.
"The female population is more than 50%, women comprised nearly 40% in the employment sector, they are better educated and that women proved to be better financial managers. Women are better qualified, hence, female representation should be made 30% in Parliament, Provincial Councils and in the Local Government bodies."
Q Today no place is a safe place for women in this country. This is worst in public transport and public places. How are you going to control this?
The law is stringent on apprehending individuals who cause sexual harassment on women and children while using public transport and at public places. The issue is that such cases are not often reported by the victims. We are planning to launch a campaign against harassment at public transport and public places during 16 days of activism which falls in November. Police training will be strengthened to address these issues.
"It is not only the State but civil society organizations, parents and religious leaders who should get together and advocate to build a just society embedded with values."
Q Another area of grave concern is the pathetic situation of women sent to work in the Middle-East and the desperate situations in their families here. We also know that they make the biggest contribution to the country’s revenue. Isn’t it a shame for a country to run its economy from the money made by these women?
Women who fall into difficulties are those who seek jobs through unauthorized recruiting agencies. For the rest, the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau adopts a special programme to look after the welfare of the families as well as the returnees. However, the Government has imposed restrictions disallowing mothers who have children below 5 years to migrate, and as a result, the number of women going as domestic aides has declined.
The Government has introduced vocational education programs comprehensively for women to be equipped with skills that provide better employment opportunities.