Sri Lanka’s promising Peace Collection boosted by UNESCO backing

Friday, 30 September 2011 05:04 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Sri Lanka Peace Collection project has been boosted by backing from UNESCO. “The promising Peace Collection project is now strengthened by support and facilitation from UNESCO” announced Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka on 22 September.

Minister Bathiudeen said this during his meeting with Prithi Perera, Secretary General of Sri Lanka UNESCO National Commission on 22 September. During the meeting in Colombo, Perera announced UNESCO’s support for the Sri Lanka Peace Collection.

Earlier on 26 July, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen revived the country’s handloom textile industry in the war-torn north-east with a project modelled on the famed Rwandan Peace Collection where baskets woven by war-widows were sold at Macy’s department stores in USA. Minister Bathiudeen reviewed the Peace Collection after a lengthy debriefing session by USAID funded VEGA’s expert Haoua Cheick Seip held at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce on 26 July.

Preliminary discussions were held with Patricia Butenis, Ambassador of the United States of America on 6 January, 2011 in order to explore possible market access for the Peace Collection in the US.“It is important for those who have been displaced by war to be encouraged to sustain themselves and their own livelihoods. We in UNESCO identified Sri Lanka Peace Collection as a promising way of fulfilling this” said Perera.

“We extend our support by giving due recognition for the programme’s goals in strengthening sustainable and cultural development through the project. We will also facilitate exhibitions and any other means possible,” Perera stressed.

The Sri Lanka Peace Collection project was initiated by the Outreach and Economic Affairs Divisions of the Secretariat for Co-ordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP) in November 2008 with the aim of ‘making it the brand that will connect rural Sri Lanka produce to the international markets.’In Sri Lanka the project plans to partner exclusively with Laksala which will assist in finalising and distributing the product range developed with in-house designer Senaka De Silva in consultation with relevant rural support networks such as waeving centres, villages, women’s groups facilitated by the district chambers of commerce in their respective areas.

The Sri Lanka Peace Collection effort follows the renowned Rwandan Peace Collection model. Based on the ‘trade instead of aid philosophy’, the Rwandan Peace Collection, made available at Macy’s department store based in the US, consists of traditionally woven baskets direct from Rwanda. Created by Rwandan widows, the basket exports that began in 2005 became one of Rwanda’s biggest exports by 2010, sustaining the weavers and their families. The number of this socially vulnerable group including widows in the North and East was 49,000 in 2002 but increased to 82,000 in 2009.

According to the latest available information provided by the Northern Provincial Council in the Northern Province this number has increased to 43,297 in 2010. The Sri Lankan initiative also plans to support a portion of the female headed households in the N&E Provinces with livelihood support while assisting towards their responsibility of looking after the needs of nurturing their families. The project will be implemented through existing weaving centres in the districts of Jaffna, Mannar, Vavuniya, Mullathivu, Killinochchi, Trincomalee,Polonnaruwa, Batticaloa and Ampara.