Sirimavo Bandaranaike: First Female Elected Prime Minister

This is it: the first informative article we want to share with you. 📝

It is on the first female elected prime minster in the world: Sirimavo Bandaranaike 💼

Enjoy the reading!

Sirimavo Bandaranaike | *17-04-1916 | † 10-10-2000| Sri Lanka | Politician

The world’s first elected female prime minister Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike, commonly known as Sirimavo Bandaranaike was a stateswoman in Sri Lanka. She became prime minister of Sri Lanka and served three terms from 1960 to 2000. As prime minister in the 1960s she was the world’s first female prime minister.

Only after the death of her husband, Sirimavo began to participate in politics. Sirimavo was married to Solomon Bandaranaike, who was a politician active in the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). Solomon became prime minister in 1956. A few years later in 1959 Solomon was murdered by a Buddhist monk because of a conflict over the official language of the country. The party needed a new leader and eventually asked Sirimavo as a successor. She agreed to this. From the moment Sirimavo was at the top of the SLFP, it got a big following and that led to her being made prime minister in 1960. By now Sirimavo had been nicknamed ‘weeping widow’, because she often burst into tears during speeches when her husband’s name came up. However, she managed to reunite the party by following through with her husband’s policies. After winning the party elections, Sirimavo also got a place in the senate.

Sirimavo became very popular among the population, mainly because of her open expressions of emotions. These utterances were very much criticized by her opponents and they would therefore call her the howler. Sirimavo’s policy was mainly characterized by its socialism. She ensured that large parts of the economy were nationalized, this was against the policies of the United States and Great Britain and so they stopped development aid. In response, Sirimavo asked for support from the Soviet Union and China. This all ran counter to her domestic policy and meant she could not count on a second government term after 1964.

Despite the setback, Sirimavo stayed with the party and won the elections in 1970. She became prime minister again. Being the prime minister again was not without a fight, because there were many problems surrounding the minorities of the country. Sirimavo thought to tackle this by pursuing a more radical policy. Under her lead, the government further restricted free enterprise and carried out further land reforms. Ultimately, her socialist policies narrowed and there was another economic stagnation. Her support for Buddhism and the Sinhalese language also alienated the Tamil minority. Sirimavo could not deal with the ethnic rivalry and could not help the country out of the economic crisis. At the end of her term, she was replaced as prime minister.

In 1980, Sirimavo’s rights were taken away by the Sri Lankan Parliament and she was removed from office. Six years later she was pardoned, and she managed to become leader of the opposition in 1989. Sirimavo’s daughter Chandrika also found her way in politics and was given an important role within the SLFP. Chandrika won parliamentary elections in 1994 and became the country’s first female president later that year. In her presidency, Chandrika appointed her mother as prime minister in the new government. Sirimavo’s health went downhill from that point and unfortunately, she passed away in 2000. Sirimavo was very adept at politics and, above all else, wanted to convey this to her children. It is great that she was able to see how her daughter became the first female president of the country and was able to contribute to this.


Author: Liz Fluttert
Image: Photos by Anuradha

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