‘Sri Lankan women contributing for betterment of society’

The Government will facilitate the contribution of Sri Lankan women to the betterment of our society as an equal player, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said.

He was addressing the High-Level Meeting on the 25th Anniversary of the 4th World Conference on Women held on Thursday under the theme “Accelerating the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”.

Excerpts of his speech are given below.

“Undoubtedly, the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, which was adopted during the 4th World Conference on Women in 1995 is a landmark global agenda for the empowerment of women. This comprehensive policy document remains relevant today as it was 25 years ago, as a source of guidance and inspiration for the advancement of women and the achievement of gender equality, globally.

“While recognizing that vital steps have been taken by the global community towards achieving gender equality and empowering women, we also acknowledge that challenges and obstacles continue to remain, impeding the socio-economic and political development of women.

“Across every sphere, from health to economy, negative impacts of COVID-19 have affected women and girls worldwide. It is therefore essential to keep gender equality and women in the forefront amidst global efforts to recover from this pandemic.

“Historically, Sri Lanka has demonstrated its commitment and political will to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women, being cognizant of their invaluable contribution to the social and economic development of the country.

“It is very encouraging to note that the women in Sri Lanka, comprising more than half of our population, have achieved social development indicators such as literacy rates, social inclusion and life expectancy, which are on par with the developed countries.

“I am very proud to acknowledge the achievements of women in my country, who play a significant role in every sphere. Sri Lankan women were granted voting rights (universal franchise) in 1931. Sri Lanka produced the first female Prime Minister in the world in 1960. Sri Lankan women have continued to hold several high-ranking positions in the country as Members of Parliament and local Government, Secretaries to Ministries, Heads of Diplomatic Missions, and the Judiciary. Women represent half of the working population in the country and excel in higher education. Their contribution to the national economy is very significant. Women represent 34.5% of the labour force while 39 percent of the expatriate workforce consists of women.

“The Government, headed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who has received an overwhelming mandate by the Sri Lankan people, is committed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), among which the fifth Goal is to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”

“In our Government’s National Policy Framework (“Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour”), 10 key policy areas have been identified to achieve a fourfold outcome of ‘a productive citizenry, a contented family, a disciplined and just society and a prosperous nation’. In this framework, priority has been given to gender-based equality, empowerment of women and minimization of gender-based violence.

“In line with the above policy framework, the Government will facilitate and ensure the contribution of Sri Lankan women to the betterment of our society as an equal player, in an environment where women will make their own decisions and will be free to reach their aspirations and will not be subject to any violence or discrimination.

“In conclusion, Sri Lanka reaffirms its commitment to the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, which should be our shared commitment towards a inclusive and sustainable development.”

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