“My husband’s income has drastically reduced because of the country’s situation. Our entire family now depends on me”, says K. Vanitha, who runs a tailoring business in Ampara, Sri Lanka. As cost of living increases and purchasing power declines rapidly, like Vanitha, many women entrepreneurs are shouldering heavy burdens and struggling with the continuity of their businesses.
UN Women with support from the Government of Japan, provided equipment and productive assets worth LKR 50.4million (approx. USD 140,000) to help women entrepreneurs hit hardest by Sri Lanka’s economic downturn. On 26th October 2022, Ambassador MIZUKOSHI of Japan handed over some of the equipment, such as sewing machines and flour grinding machines to the women entrepreneurs supported at the distribution ceremony held in Colombo. Besides them, 384 women from the Districts of Ampara, Monaragala and Vavuniya received assistance.
The in-kind assistance provided is part of UN Women’s 3-year project on ‘Implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Sri Lanka’ funded by the Government of Japan.
Speaking at the event in Colombo, Hon. Geetha Samanmalee Kumarasinghe, State Minister of Women and Child Affairs said: “This project has also developed the skills of more than 100 officers at the Divisional Secretariat level, who will in turn work to empower and build resilience of other women and ensure gender equality is integrated within Sri Lankan society”.
Speaking on the need to place women and girls at the centre of relief and recovery efforts, H.E. MIZUKOSHI Hideaki, Ambassador of Japan to Sri Lanka noted that; “It is imperative to involve women and girls who comprise more than half of the country’s population in order to achieve inclusive development. Through our longstanding partnership with UN Women and Sri Lanka, Japan is committed to advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment in-line with the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development”.
As part of the project, close to 800 women have received capacity building trainings on business and entrepreneurship conducted by UN Women and Chrysalis.
“Investing in women’s economic empowerment is at the heart of UN Women’s mandate. The entrepreneurs supported through this project are receiving one-to-one business coaching and mentoring from other established enterprises to help implement their business strategies and ensure continuity, growth and diversification of their ventures”, said Esther Hoole, Officer in Charge at UN Women Sri Lanka.
The participants, including Vanitha, that qualified for in-kind assistance, “developed business plans that were reviewed by an independent panel including local government officials, sectoral technical officers and external stakeholders to assess feasibility and awarding of the requested assistance”, said Ashika Gunasena, CEO of Chrysalis. The enterprises range across several sectors including crop cultivation, agri-business, garments, livestock rearing, food manufacturing, spice grinding, small groceries, value addition to coconut and palmyrah value chains amongst others.
Vanitha who received a sewing machine for her tailoring business said; “Since prices of ready-made garments have gone up, more people are beginning to buy fabric for stitching. This will help me expand my business and future investments”.