Ampara District Women’s Forum holds inaugural event

04 Apr 2012

imageMembers of the Ampara District Women's Forum

Making significant contributions towards increasing the participation of women in decision-making processes in Ampara District, where female participation in local governance structures is amongst the lowest in the country, the newly established Ampara District Women’s Forum will hold their inaugural event on April 5, 2012.

The first such forum for women in Ampara District brings together 11 Divisional Women’s Forums in the District of Ampara under one umbrella, with the facilitation of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The District Women’s Forum will play a lead role in conducting and initiating activities to develop the skills, capacity and confidence of the women of Ampara. It builds on the successes of the Women’s Leadership Development Project (WLDP), implemented by UNDP’s Transition Recovery Programme (TRP) with funding support provided by UNDP, which sought to increase women’s participation in decision-making in Ampara through training, networking and seed-support.

The event will be held at the District Secretariat premises and presided over by the District Secretary of Ampara. The event will also be attended by Government officials, civil society groups, media personnel, representatives from the Divisional Women’s Forums and UNDP.

The event will highlight the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures”, as well as the United Nations theme, “Empower Rural Women - End Hunger and Poverty”. A workshop will be jointly conducted by the Vocational Training Authority, National Apprentice and Industrial Training Authority (NAITA) and District Chamber of Commerce on “How to connect girls with different vocational education opportunities”, where participants will have an opportunity to learn about obtaining support for vocational enterprise initiatives.  

The day’s events will also feature an exhibition and sale where representatives from each Divisional Women’s Forum will showcase their products. The Ampara District Women’s Forum will also present their Action Plan for 2012, and the day’s activities will conclude with an award ceremony that will recognize 20 women who have made extraordinary contributions to their Divisions and District.

Despite relative gains against MDG indicators on gender parity in education and wage employment, Sri Lanka still performs poorly on women’s political participation, with women’s representation in national parliament standing at 5.6% which is amongst the lowest in South Asia and in the Provincial Councils (PCs) and Local Authorities (LAs) at under 3%. Women from the country’s formerly conflict-affected districts face additional challenges, having to bear additional economic and social burdens especially if they have lost male family members, and living in areas where decision-making structures are themselves just being resuscitated following the end of the war.

Against this background, UNDP TRP’s WLDP worked with 30 women from the formerly conflict-affected district of Ampara to provide them with capacity-development, exposure and networking opportunities, and seed-funds to initiate community development activities. Over the course of the two years, the project saw the women leaders implement their own community projects raising awareness of urgent issues within their communities and uplifting the lives of women.

In early 2011, Ms. K. Lalith Kulanayake, one of the women leaders, empowered by the training and exposure received through her participation in the WLDP, decided to run for local government, and having successfully contested local elections, became the first female representative to serve in her area.