A discussion on the need to systematically observe and report the political activism of women during the period of elections

Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) in partnership with International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) organised a workshop on violence against women in elections (VAWIE) for election observer groups and women’s rights advocates on 27th of July at Global Towers Hotel, Colombo.

This discussion which was held based on the common issues arising  in relation to VAWIE and other relevant matters, was attended by representatives of all election observation groups as well as women’s rights  activists representing various women’s   organizations and groups.  Mr. Mahinda Deshapriya, the chairman of the Election Commission inaugurated the program and Beverly Hagerdon (Chief of Party, Sri Lanka- IFES) ,D. M. Dissanayake (IFES), Udeni Thewarapperuma(IFES), Rohana Hettiarchchi(Executive Director-Paffrel) and Manjula Gajanayake (National Co-ordinator-CMEV) subsequently conducted the remaining sessions in this event respectively.

Chairman of the Election commission of Sri Lanka outlined the inclusive election process that has  being followed by the Election Commission, in accordance with the strategic plan that was introduced recently, which was followed by  the socio-economic and political challenges towards the promotion of women participation in elections.  Keerthi Thennakoon (Caffe), Daya Herath (MDL Lanka), Sashee De Mel (TISL) , Jayantha Dolawattha (SLAPA) also expressed their views on the subject representing election observer groups while Visaka Dharmadasa (AWAWSL), Nadesan Suresh (Uva Shakthi Foundation), U.D.M.  Sheelwathie (UWFWO), Nalini Rathnarajah (Women Activist) and several others contributed to the discussion representing women and other rights based organisations.

It was a novel experience to learn about VAWIE and specially for the Women’s Organizations the information shared with regard to election monitoring tools and mechanisms was instrumental. During the final discussion, all the participants agreed that the existing election monitoring tools used by observer groups lack questions to capture VAWIE and they came up with several questions that need to be included in all election monitoring tools. The participants also acknowledged that in order to implement VAWIE monitoring tools, there are certain prerequisites that need to be looked into- such as training programmes on VAWIE for election observers, establishing a district level focal point for observers to refer victims of VAWIE and increasing public awareness on VAWIE. Based on the discussion, IFES and CMEV agreed to draft sample questions to capture VAWIE that can be adopted by interested observer groups. IFES and CMEV will also develop a brief strategy on how to implement VAWIE monitoring during elections.