Empowering Sri Lanka’s Business Women in SME Sector

Sri Lanka’s economy has witnessed a steady revival in growth during the past few months, with the country venturing into new avenues of commodity and service monetisation.

Investment has evenly spread across technology, innovation and BPOs, but close inspection begs to raise the question: Is Sri Lanka putting enough effort to foster and realize its workforce potential?

Let the numbers do the talking. Of the total economically active population in Sri Lanka, women account for only 34%. What efforts are being made to promote enterprise and entrepreneurial opportunities to the female workforce of Sri Lanka?

Micro-level entrepreneurship by women has seen accelerated progression over the past few years to be recognized as small and medium-scaled enterprises (SMEs) today, but even these levels remain staggeringly low. According to reports, with 80% of Sri Lanka’s economy being driven by SMEs, only 10% consists of women entrepreneurs.

“In the Government sector we see females in many senior positions, most of them engaged insignificant roles such as policymaking,” Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB) Chairperson, Indira Malwatte said.“Now we also have more female entrepreneurs taking on game-changing roles and getting into the crux of business.The EDB is actively promoting this movement.”

“We (EDB) are going to sign an agreement to launch a programme together with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for female entrepreneurs engaged in the ICT, fruit and vegetable and food processing sectors. These are three areas we have identified where there’s a potential for women to grow and benefit from assured revenue generation,” Malwatte explains.

“I believe empowering women empowers the whole nation,” the Chairperson elaborates.

She is also championing the She Trades Initiative in Sri Lanka, a web and mobile application launched by the International Trade Centre (ITC) that provides women entrepreneurs of the world to connect to markets across the globe.“Women can now share information about their companies and expand through the best networks. This platform enables women to find new business opportunities on a global scale.”

The EDB has also conceived a programme named ‘DayenLowata’, with the intention of enabling local entrepreneurs to extend and advance their localized businesses to contribute to the export economy.“We have decided to pick 10 successful entrepreneurs from each district in Sri Lanka who have showcased basic skills in business, to foster export opportunities for their businesses.

Of the 10 nominees, a minimum two will be women, leaving room for the number to increase. With this, our target is to empower at least 50 female entrepreneurs over the course of the first round of grants.” “Today, the woman is in a position to bean entrepreneur and also a bread winner for her family,” Malwatte explains. “These women will also instill similar values in their children. Intelligent women will benefit society. They are the new engine for economic growth and due recognition has to be given to them.”

“When it comes to equality, Sri Lankan women have equal opportunity in education. Even with certain limitations and boundaries in our country’s culture, I believe education is balancing it off. If you are capable and professional, and if you are on top of your job, there is absolutely nothing stopping women from reaching their goals in life.”

“We have created a women’s cell in the EDB where for the first time in Sri Lanka, we have an officer dedicated to helping out female entrepreneurs,” Malwatte said. “This year’s World Export Development Forum (WEDF), scheduled to be held at the BMICH in Colombo in just over one month, will also focus on timely topics that are relevant for women, with a female-centric workshop to better educate Sri Lankan female entrepreneurs also taking place during the two-day summit.”

“Our business women should take this chance to explore new opportunities,and network with trade experts and business persons from across the globe. This is a very promising platform to partner up and expand your business. Now is the time to grow.”

Daily News, Date: September 14, 2016. Sri Lanka