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Joining the race: Pathways to politics for grassroots and development-sector women in Sri Lanka

Women's representation in political office is critical to achieving gender justice, to advance women's interests, and for inclusive development leadership. These positive outcomes are hampered across Asia due to women's under-representation and the elite backgrounds of women elected into legislatures.

In Sri Lanka, the introduction of a local government quota in February 2018 increased women's participation, yet the elite backgrounds and/or lack of experience with constituents concerns leaves many questioning the capabilities of elected women and their ability to promote the concerns of women.

Lacking is an understanding of why women working in grassroots politics or in national development organizations do not seek and/or attain seats in state or national assemblies. This comparative project develops such an understanding of the experiences of a diverse group of women actors in Indonesia and Sri Lanka. This research will increase the diversity and number of women elected into political positions in both countries, with lessons identified for other Asian countries. We will achieve this by:

1.Deliveringpolicy and practice-relevant knowledge as to how to increase the number of women from grassroots and development-sector backgrounds contesting elections.

2.Educating and building awareness as to the benefits of having women in power from diverse backgrounds through reflexive dialogue with key stakeholders.

3.Identifying strategies for NGOs and feminist organizations to recruit and support women in election campaigns.

4.Advancing theory about pathways to power for women and sharing strategies to facilitate those pathways through comparative research and knowledge exchange.

This project is sponsored by the Development Leadership Program (DLP) and funded by Australian Aid, University of Birmingham, and La Trobe University.

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