Senanayake, 60, ran for and won election as mayor of Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo—and will be the first woman to hold that position. Not that she needed the quota law herself—she’s a well-known face as a long-time campaigner for women’s and children’s rights, who first ran for office in 2009, after serving as the country’s top diplomat to Malaysia. A former national lawmaker and minister, she most recently was spokersperson for the prime minister’s office.

But the hope is that the law will make it easier for more women to enter politics—even if they’re not from a prominent political family or famous for another reason. Many women have complained of the difficulty of securing nominations, despite years as political workers, if they lack political patronage. Senanayake, who isn’t from a political family herself, had her own edge: she gained fame as a pageant contestant in the 1980s, and won the inaugural Mrs. World contest in 1985, where she was deemed the “most beautiful married woman in the world.” She soon segued into political work, and joined her political party in 1995.

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