Women empowerment through Micro Enterprises
As revealed through various reports including research findings nearly 500,000 of displaced women and war widows and also female heads of families are endeavoring to reach income targets by involving in varied income earning enterprises during the post war epoch. Accordingly the operational policies of RAHAMA discusses the long-term, self initiated actions to empower affected women to advance their skills to fit in the women labour market or to engage in micro enterprises. In this context RAHAMA had implemented numerous activities to empower them economically and socially. These initiatives include Mobilization of women’s groups, identifying feasible micro businesses, skills development training while enriching their awareness on business planning, gender related issues. Inspiring women’s leadership on civil societal organizations too, is given priority. In this milieu, exceeding 431 direct vulnerable women headed families were assisted to realize sustainable income through economic activities in the primary sectors of production namely ; Livestock, home gardening, running glossary
shops and several other self employment actions those have been contributed towards expanding household income and ensuring food security. Provision of Micro credit, with guidance to access collaboration with state agencies while also creating marketing opportunities. A notable change emerged was the changed attitudes of men to support livelihood activities started by their female counterparts.
Tharminy a married woman resettled in a village in Mulaithivu district says that “I am grateful to RAHAMA, our co-operative and the state authorities for their collaborative effort to improve the status of livelihood in our village. Now our family holds the ownership of a carpentry workshop which is a result of above exertion. The income we now earn from this workshop unit is primarily sufficient to meet our family expenses and to endure some savings as well. RAHAMA apart from it’s financial support had also enabled to bolster my business skills, money management practices and to inculcate the importance of savings.
The newly acquired skills will be helpful for me to expand our business further and hope to create job opportunities at least for two persons in the imminent days. I extend my
extreme thanks for all those including donors who assisted my family to cross over the barriers of poverty.
Small and Medium Enterprises
Uplifting the lives of women, through handicrafts industry using Palmyra leaves.Higher percentage of members of women’s cooperatives in Mullaithivu are among those who returned back to their own
settlements during the post-conflict era. After completion of a chain of livelihood activities in Mullathivu District RAHAMA agreed with the authorities of Co-op. to introduce one more Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) to uplift living standards of one more group of poverty stricken women. The outcome of the discussion held with Govt. staff including Palmyra Dev. Board was positive and the stake holder appreciated the intervention of RAHAMA on this perspective. The baseline data gathered in the selected locations, revealed that there are 5,000 Palmyra trees and the rate of unemployment among the women was 65%. Observations made thereafter disclosed that the focused teams of women were courageous and willing to join product groups and their eagerness to earn income without travelling in distant places.
Through Further surveillances RAHAMA discovered that Mullaithivu North Co-op. society had commenced an industrial unit to produce Palmyra handicrafts but it has not continued due to some reasons. Thereafter the discussions had with divisional and Co-op. authorities finalyzed that RAHAMA to assist 18 women to re-commence the discontinued industry as an SME. The intended objective in this action was to facilitate the justifiable resettlement of returnee families while reducing stresses by improving their socio-economic conditions. Output achieved so far is that 18 Micro entrepreneurs by using acquired skills and other essentials made available by RAHAMA produce quality items of handcrafts using Palmyra leaves.
Those 18 women continue their membership with the Co-op. and have completed training on handcraft industry, savings and credit, small business management and risk mitigating methods. Further awareness building is planned for the coming months; Viz; Improved standards of cost benefit control with formal book keeping, Revised business plan based on the changes, Palmyra pulping skills and access for better marketing of product, to assist each producer to obtain micro credit from REEDCo and to start a sales center in a tourist attracted location. Also to assert added involvement of Palmyra products varying from fibre to sweet (sugar), replanting Palmyra plants and also selling timber (Rafters). Besides, there are challenges as well. The gap continuing between sales income and the C.O.P. takes different shapes
mainly due to inadequate publicity and insufficient contact with potential buyers which needs sufficient involvement in the coming period.
Mrs. Suthanthini is one of the Mullaitivu Women cooperative members and received assistance for livelihood.
She has three children who are going to school and her husband is sick.From the livelihood assistance she started to do dry fishing from inland fish which is marketable to southern part of the country at a good price. Every week she buys and cuts 100 kg to 120 kg of fish to dry and she manages to sell the quality variety from Rs .300 to Rs.350 per kg. From the revenue within 6 months, she bought a television and took her husband to Colombo for treatment, now she feels that she has improved their standard of living.
She is also in the repayment schedule at MWDCS and she stated that she could now give a minimum of two meals to her children regularly.
Mrs. Arulmala from Silawatta is a widow with a son, who was doing cadjan knitting in a small scale but met many challenges to meet the day to day living expenses.
She got membership of MWDCS, and participated in women empowerment trainings conducted by RAHAMA, IDB and made her personal business plan to improve her life. Her business plan is taken in to consideration by MWDCS and RAHAMA for livelihood assistance. She received livelihood assistance and expanded her work and started to improve her life. Now she is the first person in the repayment schedule of MWDCS and three of her colleagues have been employed (also needy women) and continuing her routine work.