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FEATURE STORY

Women Inspiring Change in the Sri Lanka Livelihoods Project

April 23, 2014

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sarojini Malkanthi overcame many challenges in order to support her siblings to realize their educational and professional aspirations while assisting her aged parents at the same time.
  • Since quitting her management job in Colombo, she has become a community resource person to continue helping others at the village level in Bowalagama to increase their incomes and decide on investments for their villages.
  • The Second Community Development and Livelihood Improvement project is helping support 4290 local level projects mostly lead by women to improve the stand of living for the poorest and most vulnerable members to help them become respected members of the community.

The Second Community Development and Livelihood Improvement project is helping support 4290 local level projects mostly lead by women to improve the stand of living for the poorest and most vulnerable members to help them become respected members of the community.

Family

“I passed my A/levels in Biology but did not get sufficient marks to enter university,” said Sarojini, the eldest child of farming parents from Sri Lanka’s once poorest district division. She made a decision to find a job in Colombo to support the education of her younger sisters and assist her old aged parents who were subsistence farmers while earning an income sufficient to manage daily expenses. “Today, one of my sisters is a doctor and another teacher,” she said with satisfaction of the fruits of her labor.

People’s Company

The Bowalagama People’s Company Limited was formed in 2007. It is one of 14 Village Companies still existing and operating under the SCDLIP project. The remaining village organizations are operating as Societies under the Ministry of Economic Development. It has a membership of 166 village households with 99 categorized as poor and 105 women members. The membership fee is Rs.100. Membership benefits include access to village savings and credit facilities, financial advice, market linkages and many other direct and indirect benefits of belonging to an organized people’s company. Since the formation of the company, the people’s company developed a village development plan identifying development priorities following a participatory process. Implementation was carried out with joint contributions to a Village Development Fund from the Government of Sri Lanka, The International Development Agency (IDA), the concessionary lending arm of the World Bank and the communities themselves.

Paddy cultivation is the main livelihood of the people followed by sugarcane and maize harvests. The People’s Company has formed revolving Loan Funds for members to borrow to develop their capacities and support livelihoods.

The total investment in Bowalagama is Rs.3,660,000 with 94 percent of these funds given to members to help them build their village infrastructure, livelihoods and capacities to date.


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Building People

“I learnt many things about accounting and improved my financial literacy after I joined this company, said Sarojini who is now an advisor to other members in the company struggling to move out of poverty. “Not all members are successful in moving out of poverty,” commented Sarojini who counsels members in diverse ways from domestic issues to market linkages. “Some people don’t have the drive to work hard and help themselves…what we do is give them opportunities…while some grab these opportunities, some fall behind…” she remarked expressing the challenges she faced in her duty as a Community Resource Person (CRP) who is constantly monitoring people’s progress and cajoling them when they fall behind. The role of a CRP expands from Financial Management of the Village Organization to visits to members’ households to address issues blocking their path to progress.

Sarojini is one of 1924 CRPs who have dedicated their lives to improving their communities and helping others realize their aspirations. 92 percent of CRPs are females.

Empowering women and promoting female participation in decision making have been integral to project objectives to enhance quality of life of poor households of the poorest divisions in the country and increase incomes and well-being of the poor and most vulnerable.

The SCDLIP was initiated in 2004 as a response to the Poverty Alleviation Strategy of Government of Sri Lanka. The project is based on the community-driven development model which aims to improve the livelihoods of rural communities through the formation of self-governing local institutions enabling greater decision-making, resource mobilization, monitoring and evaluation of sustainable investments at the village-level.

For more information on the project, check out the entirety of its investments and activities - Project at a glance.



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