Women’s Parliamentary Participation is Essential

South Asia regional tour inspires dialogue and results

"We are all working to the same end…and that is to support strengthened women’s political participation at all levels of government…(this) is not only a human rights issue, but is also an essential component of sustainable development, social justice, peace, and security."
-Shelley Whiting, High Commissioner of Canada to Sri Lanka

#Femparl delegates

While considerable strides have been made throughout South Asia, and in Canada, in increasing and supporting women’s political participation, more work remains to be done. 

Canadian High Commissions (Sri Lanka, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan) in the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) region came together to organise a Women Parliamentarian Regional Tour in February 2016 #FemParl to host a regional dialogue amongst women parliamentarians.

Women’s leadership in governance, the economy and civil society enable the transformation of social, political and economic processes to work in favor of women and gender equality.

This initiative, which included leading women parliamentarians from Afghanistan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, served as a platform for women parliamentarians in the region, and other leaders in democracy and governance, to help build a dialogue.

Women’s Participation is Essential

"The participants of this initiative come from countries in the region with rich political and cultural heritages and share the experience of being women leaders…I…look forward to sharing perspectives on best practices, challenges, opportunities and next steps in our respective countries and the region with regard to increasing women’s political participation – which I believe is key to strong and healthy democracies."
-Shelley Whiting, High Commissioner of Canada to Sri Lanka

The importance local governments and organizations are placing on women’s parliamentary participation was clear as key meetings with key Sri Lanka and Indian parliamentarians and high-level government officials, including the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, and civil society activists promoting women’s political participation were included in the program.

The Results are In!

  • On February 10, shortly after the conclusion of the #FemParl event, the Sri Lankan Parliament passed a Bill to establish a quota of 25% women in local governments.
  • The Minister of Women and Child Affairs delivered a speech on the floor of the House, and referred to both Prime Minister Trudeau and this #FemParl Women Parliamentarians Tour.
  • The government of Sri Lanka has launched a constitutional reform process, which will result in a new constitution. 
  • The Canadian High Commission in Sri Lanka, through the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, is supporting Women and Media Collective, along with IFES, two of the participants in the Women Parliamentarians Tour, to form a group which would prepare and propose draft language on women's rights within the new constitution. Canada will support this critical constitutional process with Sri Lanka, ensuring the inclusion of women’s voices in all aspects of the process.

Canada is proud to have been able to serve as a platform to bring key stakeholders together and to contribute to important breakthroughs in the region. 

Canada looks forward to further opportunities to support the development of true equality for women in the region.

“Never retreat, never explain, never apologize. Get the thing done and let them howl.”
– Nellie McClung, Canadian suffragette from Manitoba, 1916