|At the 51st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women|
|Monday, 26 February 2007 12:38|
Gender equality achieved so far in Sri Lanka is a result of conscious efforts of favourable state policies. In support of this tradition, President Rajapaksa, in his vision of ''Mahinda Chinthana'', and the Ten Year Plan of the Government released recently, has articulated further strategies for women's empowerment. This Plan, among other measures, envisages halving the unemployment rate of women and reducing it to a minimum by the year 2016.
The National Plan of Action for Women has been updated to cover all areas indicated in the Beijing Platform for Action, taking into consideration gender issues which have emerged during the last decade. Eliminating gender discriminatory provisions in personal laws and laws which are detrimental to women, removing discriminatory provisions in the Land Development Ordinance, taking measures to combat trafficking in women and child prostitution, proposal for the establishment of a National Commission on Women to protect and promote women's rights are some recent initiatives in favour of women.
Violence against women is an issue which has received highest priority in the recent past. Stringent laws have been promulgated, and the National Committee on Women has prepared an Action Plan for raising community awareness, and receiving and investigating complaints on sexual harassment in work places.
Education has been the major contributory factor for improving the status of women in my country. We enjoy a very high literacy rate of 95% for women. Gender parity in primary education as desired in the Millennium Development Goals is a reality now. An enlightened health policy providing free health services and an easily accessible island wide network of primary health care services has contributed significantly to the promotion of women's health far ahead of most developing countries.
Labour force participation of women in my country has increased due to education opportunities available for women, as well as the liberalization and modernization of the economy. As a result, women contribute around 60% of the national economy. Despite the economic contribution of tconcerned about the social cost of migration. Women's representation at higher professional levels has been recording a four-fold increase in the last quarter of the century, breaking the glass ceiling in many professions. Women in the informal sector make a formidable contribution to the rural economy through micro enterprises introduced by state sponsored poverty alleviation programmes. Women also play a major role at the planning level in the ''Village Upliftment Programme'', participating and contributing equally to development at the village level. he female migrant workers to the economy, we are more
However, under-representation of women at political decision making levels has become a critical issue in Sri Lanka. Despite having elected the first female head of government in the modern era as far back as 1960, female representation in politics remains low - 4.8% in parliament, 2% in provincial councils, and 1.9% in pradeshiya sabhas. Representations have been made to political parties to nominate more women at elections and consideration of a 30% quota for women in the Electoral Reforms Committee. A Caucus of Women Parliamentarians was formed in 2006 mainly to lobby for having more women representation in political institutions.
The armed conflict has also affected women faced with situations arising as a result of violence - psychological trauma, loss of livelihoods, displacement, and an increase in female headed households. While the Government is committed to find a negotiated settlement to the conflict, we are committed to support the process by translating into action, the Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women and Security, to get more women involved in the peace process, as well as decision making levels in peace making institutions.
In conclusion, I reaffirm the Government's commitment to fully implement the provisions of the Beijing Platform for Action to achieve greater gender equality and empowerment of women in all fields.