Broken Pathways: Women’s Political Leadership in Sri Lanka


Why are there so few women from non-elite backgrounds in Sri Lankan politics? What barriers do they face on their pathways to politics? And what can be done to support them? Ramona Vijeyarasa and Nadine Vanniasinkam join Petra Alderman, associate researcher at NIAS and postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Birmingham, to talk about non-elite women’s political leadership in Sri Lanka. This research is part of a larger comparative project funded by the Australian government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through the Developmental Leadership Program.

Dr Ramona Vijeyarasa is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Technology Sydney, where she has designed a “Gender Legislative Index” to assess the gender-responsiveness of domestic laws. Her latest book, The Woman President: Leadership, Law and Legacy for Women Based on Experiences from South and Southeast Asia, was published by Oxford University Press in July 2022.

Nadine Vanniasinkam is a Senior Researcher at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Sri Lanka. Her research focuses on social inclusion, minority identity politics and religious coexistence with gender as a cross cutting focus.

The Development Leadership Program (DLP) is an international research initiative that explores the role of leadership, power and political processes in forming locally-legitimate ideas, coalitions and institutions that promote development outcomes – from sustainable growth to political stability and social inclusion. To learn more about the larger comparative project on ‘Non-elite pathways to women's political leadership in Sri Lanka and Indonesia’ that Ramona and Nadine are part of, visit their DLP project page.

The Nordic Asia Podcast is a collaboration sharing expertise on Asia across the Nordic region, brought to you by the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS) based at the University of Copenhagen, along with our academic partners: the Centre for East Asian Studies at the University of Turku, the University of Helsinki and Asianettverket at the University of Oslo.

We aim to produce timely, topical and well-edited discussions of new research and developments about Asia.

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Petra Alderman

Petra Alderman (prev. Desatova) is an associate researcher at the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies and a post-doctoral research fellow at the International Development Department at the University of Birmingham. Her research interests lie in the area of authoritarian legitimation, electoral studies and promotional politics. Her regional focus is on Southeast Asia and has a particular expertise on Thailand.

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