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Speeches & Transcripts April 4, 2019

Guest Speech at Prize Day of the Hindu Ladies College Colombo

Hon. Minister of Education, Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, Members of the Board of Management, Madam Principal of the Hindu Ladies College, Distinguished guests, parents and students.

Good Morning!

It’s my great pleasure to be here this morning to address you; and I am even more pleased to be here to congratulate all the prize winners, their teachers and parents.   I am proud of all of you.  Congratulations!

I was requested to talk about the World Bank and the work we do.  I decided however, that I would also like to speak a little about women in the work place and why you must aim to be one of them in the future.  Even more so if you imagine that only 1 in 3 women in Sri Lanka is in the work place.

The World Bank is a large organization with a very simply articulated mission – to assist countries eliminate extreme poverty and increase shared prosperity.  What it means is that:

We work in partnership with governments to identify needed development projects to support – drinking water, sewerage, roads, schools etc., – investments that help the country’s citizens enjoy the benefits of development;

  • We also do our best to ensure that what we invest in does not leave anyone worse off than they were in the beginning;
  • We advocate for everyone to benefit from what we invest in; and we are held accountable by others who make sure that we do the best we can; 
  • e give our money to government’s mainly through the Ministry of Finance who then give it to other Ministries and agencies – so you will not know whether the money paying for a road is from us or other development agencies;
  • We try to work with many others, so that we don’t duplicate what they are doing;
  • And above all we like to hear from beneficiaries - in all walks of life – about what they think about our work.  We hear about good things, but also what we can do to improve;
  • We are owned by 189 countries and we draw our staff from these countries. Sri Lanka is a member of the World Bank.

The World Bank started working in Sri Lanka in August 1950.  Almost 70 years ago.  And Sri Lanka has done exceedingly well in these last few decades - eliminating a significant portion of its extreme poverty.  Many people however remain vulnerable, so, our work continues.  As I know many of you in this room are computer whizzes and can easily find out more about our daily work; I will leave you to find out more about the institution through some research. 

So, let me switch to how you can participate in development, including working for agencies such as the World Bank. 

I was - a long time ago – like many of you in this room, determined to do something interesting.  Something with science given my curiosity on how things work.  I also loved school and my teachers were my bedrock.  My father was my cheerleader and my mother the disciplinarian. 

But I believe that for me, what was most important was my desire to do something that was interesting, challenging and above all that gave back to society.  It was important for me to develop a strong sense of purpose; a good work ethic and science education, as that was my area of interest.  I always wanted to be amongst the top of my class.  So, I made it a point that in addition to my chores I worked hard at my studies.

Knowing that many of you in this room have the same passion in you, I was motivated to come and share a few minutes with you; share my experience in the hope that you too will challenge yourselves to turn any obstacles that you may experience into opportunities. Leave your comfort zone.   Find your calling!

Life gives us many choices. And I am heartened to say that I know that there are many scientists, artists, teachers, entrepreneurs, policy makers and future leaders of Sri Lanka in this room, right this moment!  So, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t make it.  Everyone and anyone can.  School, your family’s help, your teacher’s nurturing and your own ambition are the deposit for your future.  Invest big to win big.

Let me end again by congratulating all those of you who are walking away with prizes today.  You make us all women, your teachers and your families proud.  Congratulations!

For those of you who didn’t get a prize today, that is not a problem.  Let today be another motivator for you to do your best in that which matters the most to you.  Your prize awaits you.  But you won’t get it unless you define it now.  Everyone’s prize is different – but the question is will you claim yours?

Thank you!

Subha Davasak!

Eniya (Ineeya)  Naal Akattum (Aaahatum]!