Women and Political Leadership Challenges and Constraints With Special Reference to Local Government in Sri Lanka

W. H. P. Lakmali, L. A. P. Madhuwanthi


Despite Sri Lanka being one of the first countries in Asia to give women theright to vote and be elected to political office, women‟s representation in formal politicshave remained minimal, depriving women of any effective voice in governance thoughwomen constitute 53 percent of population. The worst representation of women can beseen in the local government level, even though local government is the base for womento enter into political arena. Thus, the objectives of the study is to identify majorchallenges Sri Lankan women politicians face when entering into local governmentpolitics and to evaluate the impact of each and every challenge which diminishwomen‟s representation in local government politics. Further a comparison is made torecognize major challenges in Sri Lanka against Asian and Pacific region.

Since very few women politicians are in the Sri Lankan Local Governmentcontext, only seven women politicians have been selected from Colombo and Kalutaradistricts as the sample of the study and interviews were conducted based on a structuredquestionnaire prepared by the researchers in order to include the four major challengesmentioned in the conceptual framework (Social, Cultural and Religious barriers,Economic barriers, Political barriers and Psychological barriers). All the possiblesecondary sources were used to collect data as well as primary sources. In analyzingdata, qualitative techniques and MS Excel package were used.

The study found that, economic factor as the main challenge that Sri Lankanwomen politicians face when entering into local government politics and secondlypolitical factors. Challenges emerged from Social, Cultural, Religious context andPsychological perspectives are ranked as third and fourth respectively according to theanswers given by the respondents. Finally, key strategies were suggested under eachmain barrier to encourage women‟s representation in local government politics.

Key words: Women, Political leadership, Challenges, Local government

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