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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.

Project costs will cover:

  • Vocational and business training for approx 12-16 women's groups
  • Research and facilitation for market access
  • Revolving fund loans for investment capital in these small scale enterprises
  • Gender training and discussions for women and their families
  • Monitoring, support, monthly meetings and reviews of projects

Project Aim: To promote gender equality and empower women

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 project will directly address these issues by:

  • Facilitating stronger linkages with government services and access to credit
  • Facilitating producer networks in the relevant product industries, so they can have a greater voice in negotiations and add value to their products
  • Bringing together different stake-holders in the sectors to discuss solutions to issues
  • Provide women’s access to technical training to improve product quality and value addition
  • Advocate for support from government extension services

Small Business Enterprises

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.

Project Outcomes

  • 80 women in 12-16 groups will have accessed low interest loans averaging AUD $2,100 - $2,800 for investment in small businesses.
  • Women will have increased their income and the value of their labour.
  • 80 women will have increased their confidence, self esteem and leadership.
  • Transformation of household power relations; women will have a greater role in decision making, enjoy a reduction in violence, and greater independence.
  • Girl children will have improved access to primary and even secondary education as more money is available to meet family needs.
  • Participating women will be role models for other women and girls and play a vital leadership role in their communities.

Community Partners

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.

Background on women's rights and empowerment in Sri Lanka:

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 Breakthrough Alliance

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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