WILL – Women in Learning and Leadership

Sri Lanka seemed to be ahead of the gender-equality curve when Adeline Molamure was voted the first woman representative in State Council in 1931. Three decades later, the country made history when Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the first female Prime Minister in the world. Then, in 1994, Chandrika Kumaratunga was elected President.

Today, despite these major advancements, women only account for 6% of Sri Lanka’s Parliamentarians, while female representation in other South Asian countries grows rapidly. Recognizing this challenge, our team is leading efforts to improve access to political opportunities for women leaders.

Search – Sri Lanka achieved a significant victory with the amendment to the Local Government Act in 2015, which ensures a 25% quota for women in local government, . Building on this result, we launched a program called Women in Learning and Leadership (WILL). Through WILL, we work with women leaders at the local, provincial, and national levels, which includes women in parliament, provincial councils, municipals councils, and urban councils. The initiative address three major challenges: the lack of knowledge and leadership skills among female politicians; the need to build communication and engagement between female leaders and key figures in government; and the lack of cooperation between female leaders across dividing lines.

We trained almost 2,000 newly elected female representatives and are supporting the Parliamentary Women’s Caucus (PWC) in the creation of a media campaign, highlighting the achievements of female politicians. Recognizing the need to involve the whole political system in these efforts, we are also working with male leaders to ensure that they positively influence the debate on gender equality and fair political representation in Sri Lanka.

WILL is funded by the Australian High Commission in partnership with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Child Development and the Ministry of Provincial Councils and Local Authorities.