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The project will focus on women’s economic empowerment to support approximately 80 poor women to collectively implement small business enterprises and increase their confidence, skills and control over income and assets. It will directly challenge gendered stereotypes in poor communities in Sri Lanka by promoting women’s leadership and entrepreneurship, particularly in higher earning livelihood roles and vocational training.
The project will directly address the issue of poor women’s lack of access to and control over a sufficient and independent income to care for their families and meet basic needs – which reinforces their low status. Recent research has highlighted the vital importance that control over income, assets and other resources plays in women’s and girls’ empowerment, both in the family and community.
The industry sectors are still being determined after analysis of market access and profitability, but could include sectors such as the dairy and palm products industries. These industries have been identified by our partners as good opportunities for development and profitability.
Oxfam Australia will partner with community based organisations in Central, South and Eastern Districts whose membership are the poorest women and men (approximately 80% women) mobilised into small groups, village sub-committees and central committees. They will be supported to develop and run their new enterprises by Oxfam field staff and a Livelihood Coordinator in the Colombo office.
This is a new project, however it is based on findings from the Sri Lanka Gender Impact Study and builds on learnings from other livelihood initiatives Oxfam has been implementing over the past 15 years.
Poor and marginalised women in Sri Lanka have very restricted economic opportunities. With unequal access to formal and higher education, they are trapped in income generating activities which yield very low returns on their labour. This project will complement existing gender equality, sustainable livelihoods and peace building projects being undertaken by Oxfam’s community-based partner organisations in the East, South and Central provinces.
The project will contribute to broader gender practice and learning in the area of income generation for poor and illiterate women. In the developing world, most women earn meagre incomes and work very long hours, often under very poor conditions. In Sri Lanka, very poor women can earn as little as 15 cents (Australian) per hour over an 11 hour day. To break this cycle of poverty it is important that we offer alternative income generation models for women.
This project contributes to our implementation of the recommendations of the landmark Sri Lanka Gender Impact Study. We anticipate that this seed funding will provide the poorest and most marginalised women with the skills to earn a living wage, demonstrating that women can be primary breadwinners and manage enterprises that yield substantial incomes. Project outcomes and findings will be shared across organisations to build knowledge and expertise in women’s empowerment in international development initiatives.
It will also organise Tamil and Muslim communities to work together to develop the small enterprises; a very important initiative in Sri Lanka where there is a history of interethnic violence.
The Footprints Network is funding this project as part of our commitment to the global Breakthrough Alliance which is tackling poverty through empowering women and girls. It addresses UN Millennium Development Goal # 3: Gender Equity.
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