At present I am a member of the opposition of the Council for
Colombo. I am responsible for identifying problems related to
decisions and implementations made by the ruling party. I offer
counter advice in an effort to prevent harmful actions against
the citizens and the environment of the city, I also work to solve
the infrastructural problems of the voters in the area.
With regard to my personal background, my parents are ordinary
people in civil society. I have been married since 1968 and have
two daughters and one son. I have passed my general Certificate
of Education (ordinary level) in Sinhala medium.
My entry into local politics was strongly influenced by my uncle.
My mothers brother D.S Mallawarachi was a popular politician in
the 1960s . He was a member of the leftist party - The Lanka Samasamaja
party, and continuously represented the Colombo Municipal Council
for 12 years until his demise. I have always felt a strong commitment
to work for the poor. I am surrounded by a poor population, and
their socio-economic and need for common amenities encouraged
me to enter into politics. My husband also encouraged me.
A Woman's Perspective
I did not face any obstacles as a woman when entering politics
or running for office, but I face them as a politician. However,
these problems are common to both sexes. Threats from opposition
candidates and parties during election time is not uncommon. I
have to face and overcome these obstacles as a politician with
my supporters and I should not be isolated from my voters. Therefore
I have to do my best as a councilor for my people.
Although I am the only woman member in the Colombo Municipal
Council Office as well as all neighboring urban local governments
I do not feel I have faced any discrimination. On the contrary,
I believe I am respected at all times in the Council.
As a woman leader, I have made efforts to improve the status
of women in general in Colombo through organizing school book
donations which have been able to reduce the burden on women of
poor families. I have also worked to increase the number of public
amenities such as water service and toilet facilities for poor
households through the municipal council.
Breaking The Barriers
The main factors, I believe, that prevents women from entering
politics can be categorized as follows: they prefer to remain
as house wives due to cultural reasons; the name-tag 'politician'
is not perceived as good and honest in Sri Lankan society; corrupt
politicians work to keep women away from politics; and a lot of
money has to be spent to win a seat and women often do not have
the financial means necessary. In my opinion women's participation
will be favoured if there is legislation to have a minimum number
of women representatives in Council.
On a personal level I have made an effort to increase female
participation through submitting a proposal to my political party
in which I stressed that a policy be drafted that provides at
least 30 per cent representation of women in the governance of
cities and even in parliament . My intention is to submit the
same proposal to other leading political parties and to bring
them to a common consensus.
I think it is important that women should take an active role
in the governance of cities, as women easily understand the socio
-economic issues of house wives and the expense of running households.
When women are in positions where they are responsible for ruling
the cities and the country, immediate steps can be taken to redeem
economic burdens. Women are concerned with child abuse and can
take immediate steps to work against social misdeeds.
There should be a launch of awareness and capacity building programmes
to convince women of the importance of their participation in
politics. Women should also be motivated and encouraged to come
forward and offer suggestions to solve problems in society. If
women are better represented and more powerful, they would be
able to voice their concerns more effectively.
Over the past ten years there seems to have been very little
change in peoples perceptions of women in politics, as this is
not really an issue. In Sri Lanka the focus is more on party politics
rather than gender.
I consider my best achievement in office so far to be the proposal,
obtainment of funds, supervision, construction and the establishment
of a public library for my electorate. I hope to become a member
of the ruling party with the main objective of providing more
libraries in low income settlements.