Home / / Washington soft power-backed Lankan women biz policy unveiled in Colombo

Washington soft power-backed Lankan women biz policy unveiled in Colombo


Comments / 609 Views / Friday, 23 January 2015 00:00


  • Lanka’s WCIC unveils a key policy brief
  • ‘Only 34% women’s labour force active’: WCIC’s Rifa
  • Cooperated by Washington’s CIPE!
  • ‘Ready to help’: Rishad
  • US-Lanka economic ties at $ 3b
Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka Rishad Bathiudeen (far right) greets WCIC Vice Chairperson Renuka Fernando as WCIC Chairperson Rifa Musthapa (second from right) and WCIC Jt. Secretary and Policy Advocacy Manager Sarrah Sammoon (far left) look on at EDB, Colombo on 21 January
The clarion call of Sri Lanka’s women entrepreneurs to integrate them to the national policy formulation in the country’s new era has resonated at high levels when a pioneering Women’s Chamber made its advocacy push at their behest on 21 January in Colombo – and the effort is cooperated by a non-profit soft power entity based in Washington. “Women’s entrepreneurship is important when considering policy interventions to enhance female labour force participation in the economy, which in Sri Lanka is rather low – just 34% of the ‘economically active population’. This becomes particularly critical as the majority of Sri Lanka’s population is female,” voiced Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce (WCIC) Chairperson Rifa Musthapa. She was addressing Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka Rishad Bathiudeen during WCIC delegation’s meeting with the Minister at EDB, Colombo 3. WCIC, which commenced in 1985 and whose present membership is 175, is a Lankan non-profit consisting of professional women. WCIC is the first women-only trade chamber to be set up in the country. It promotes the special interests of women entrepreneurs to get them into the mainstream of Lankan business. “Among the many Chambers actively collaborating are Kandy, Jaffna, Hambantota and Mannar. The WCIC has 160 members. We plead the Minister and the Ministry to engage us, Sri Lanka’s women entrepreneurs, in new SME and entrepreneurship initiatives that the Government will formulate-including in the 100 day program,” Mustapha added. “We at WCIC work with Women’s Chambers all over the country and have done an in-depth study on women entrepreneurs’ issues. Today we are pleased to present the policy brief ‘Fostering Women’s Entrepreneurship in the SME Sector in Sri Lanka’ for collaborative action with all the stakeholders, including the Government. We have conducted focus group discussions in this. Access to finance and easing regulatory burdens are key issues that we discovered and have made recommendations here. We commenced this policy advocacy initiative in cooperation with the Centre for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), Washington, US.” Washington DC headquartered Centre for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) strengthens democracy around the globe through private enterprise and market-oriented reform. It has offices in Egypt, Ukraine, Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan. CIPE is a non-profit affiliate of the US Chamber of Commerce. Since 1983, partnering with various Chambers and other civic institutions as well as business leaders, policymakers and journalists, CIPE has been working to strengthen democracy across the world. Also present on the occasion were WCIC Vice Chairperson Renuka Fernando, WCIC Jt. Secretary and Policy Advocacy Manager Sarrah Sammoon, WCIC Research Economist and Advisor Anushka Wijesinghe and Senior Advisor to Minister Bathiudeen – Himali Jinadasa. “We are encouraged by your initiative. We are also thankful to CIPE-USA for its support in this regard. In fact, I recall with satisfaction of the successful meeting held with Assistant US Trade Representative for Central and South Asia Michael Delaney, your WCIC and me in October 2014 in Colombo,” responded Minister Bathiudeen, and added: “Our Government led by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe, has given importance to women’s participation in Sri Lanka’s governance in the 100 day program. Accordingly, we aim to introduce legislation to ensure at least 25% of women’s representation in Provincial Councils and Local Government bodies. “Our Government is keen to see enhanced women’s participation not only in governance but even in economy as well. Therefore this latest initiative by WCIC is timely. I also believe that WCIC, through a well-planned survey should enumerate the exact number of women entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka. I advise you to create a clear definition of the target sector to be surveyed and clearly identify them first so that good results are achieved by our policy efforts. “There is also strong women entrepreneur’s presence across the country at micro-levels and what is important is that they are from diverse social segments – for example, my electorate Mannar, none other than war widows have made an impact as entrepreneurs, sustaining their livelihoods and households on their own. Chambers such as yours can help such rural women entrepreneurs to access markets through new linkages. “NEDA under my Ministry is the focal point for all SMEs, including Lankan women’s and has human resources to assists initiatives such as this. Lanka Salusala Ltd and Lanka Fabrics Ltd under my Ministry can also provide ready channels of marketing and sales for products and handicrafts by our women entrepreneurs operating own industries.” Sarrah Sammoon stressed to Minister Bathiudeen that some issues raised and recommendations put forward in the brief can be broadly seen as being ‘Business Development Services’ (BDS). “In fact, the lack thereof and the need to have more of it,” she added. Reportedly, about 10% of Lankan employers are women. In 2013, Lankan female labour force participation stood at 28%. According to both the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Asian Development Bank (ADB), women’s entrepreneurship is especially significant in the context of Sri Lanka becoming an ‘Upper Middle Income’ country as female operated businesses-specially SMEs – could cater well to the demands of the rising middle class. In 2013, the US-Sri Lanka economic relations (both trade and investment) stood at $ 3 billion.

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