Women’s Empowerment in Sri LankaOn November 2, the World Economic Forum released the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report. The report did not reflect well on the state of women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka.

The Global Gender Gap Report grades 144 countries on their progress toward attaining gender equality in four areas: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival and Political Empowerment. Sri Lanka has been declining from its position in the top 20 since 2010. The country slipped from closing 74.6 percent of the gender gap in 2010 to 66.9 percent this year.

The country’s gap in Economic Participation and Opportunity increased because it failed to improve conditions of wage inequality for similar work. Additionally, Sri Lanka now ranks 86th among 144 countries in the gender gap in Educational Attainment.

In Political Empowerment, Sri Lanka ranked 65th. The country compensated for low scores on the Women in Parliament and Women in Ministerial Positions indicators with high marks on the Years with a Female Head of State indicator. Sri Lanka has had a female head of state for 21 out of the last 50 years.

Despite these discouraging statistics, efforts to advance the state of women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka persist. Aitken Spence PLC, Jetwing Hotels Ltd., MAS Holdings (Pvt.) Ltd. and the Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology (Pvt.) Ltd. have signed on as partners of Women’s Empowerment Principles.

Developed through a partnership between U.N. Women and the United Nations Global Compact, the two organizations designed the principles to help companies review existing policies and practices and establish new strategies to promote women’s empowerment.

The principles include:

  • Establishing high-level corporate leadership for gender equality
  • Treating all women and men equitably at work by respecting and supporting human rights and non-discrimination
  • Securing the health, safety and well-being of all female and male workers
  • Promoting education, training and professional development for women
  • Implementing enterprise development and employing supply chain and marketing practices that empower women
  • Nurturing equality through community initiatives and advocacy

Participating companies must measure and publicly report their progress toward achieving gender parity.

In addition to economic measures, non-government organizations are implementing social programs to enhance women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka. Emerge Centre for Reintegration is the newest program sponsored by the Emerge Lanka Foundation, which supports survivors of sexual abuse aged 10-18. For 12 years, the foundation has helped countless exploited young women by providing training in life, financial and professional skills. Now, through the Centre for Reintegration, it offers assistance to young women who are over 18 as they face the challenging transition stage from living in shelters to thriving on their own.

Enabling women to participate fully in communities builds stronger economies, helps attain internationally agreed-upon objectives for development and sustainability and improves the quality of life for women, men, families and communities. The work being done in Sri Lanka can help counter its decreasing rankings and ensure empowerment for all women.

– Heather Hopkins

Photo: Flickr