Inequality and a lack of economic opportunities for women is limiting recovery in the war-ravaged eastern Sri Lanka, resulting in high levels of poverty. This is made worse by a changing climate affecting the province’s main industry, rice growing, while women’s lack of status often leads to domestic violence.
Men tend to own the land and equipment, and so control rice production and the markets, which gives them greater economic and political power. While women are gradually increasing their involvement in rice processing, their income is limited because they lack the business skills and are unable to get small loans to invest in improving facilities. Rural women are also largely excluded from farmers’ organisations (only 10 per cent of members are women).
In Sri Lanka women like Velupillai, pictured above, are determined to take steps on the road to independence, and with support from our partner, Oxfam, they are growing more, earning more, and facing a more hopeful future.
This project empowered women to improve their incomes and status, and to tackle gender inequalities. It provided equipment and training that could help women to take control of their own small business enterprises – turning their surplus rice crop into flour, rice cakes and noodles to sell at local markets.
With support from The Oxford Circle, the project directly supported over 700 women.
“What I learned has given me lots of ideas about how to increase my income. I began milling rice and selling rice packets and rice flour. I also began selling lunch packs, making fast-food items and taking orders to make meals for special occasions. I have raised my weekly income from 10,000 Sri Lankan rupees (£ 48) to 25,000 Sri Lanka rupees (£ 121), which I previously had no idea I would be able to make!
“I am now able to spend money on our child’s education as well as invest some for improving my business activities. Having learned bookkeeping, I now understand how to keep track of my income and I have also learned to invest wisely to improve my business.”