In celebration of women
#PressforProgress was the theme for the 2018 International Women’s Day, celebrated around the world on March 8th each year. The theme was picked to raise awareness globally that more needs to be done to achieve gender equality.
In Sri Lanka, women make up nearly 52% of the country’s 21 million population. Even while we celebrate the mandated inclusion of 25% women in Local Government bodies, and the election of Colombo’s first Female Mayor, in the Global Gender Gap Index which examines educational achievement, economic participation, health & survival and political empowerment, Sri Lanka ranks 109 out of 144 countries.
Sri Lanka has done well in terms of education, providing equal opportunities for both girls and boys, with overall literacy levels reaching 94.6 for women and 96.9 for men.
A greater proportion of women who contribute to the country’s economy are employed as unskilled labour in the Tea, Rubber, Coconut and garment industries, and also work overseas as caregivers and domestic aides. According to Census data, women head every one in four households. In 2013, available statistics indicate that women accounted for 35.5 per cent of the Labour Force.
Meanwhile, a report entitled “The Sri Lankan Woman”, by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, shows that more women are entering employment fields that have so far been male dominated. In 2014, twenty percent of Ministry Secretaries were women, and the gap between men and women in the fields of law and medicine becoming less.
Even as women continue to make in-roads in education and employment, their participation in the political field remains low. As well, violence against women and social attitudes that prevent women from reaching their full potential remain as areas of great concern.