Dialog Axiata Senior General Manager Rozy Laxana (right) presents the sponsorship cheque to WCIC Chairperson Rifa Mustapha - Pic by Upul Abayasekara
By Hiruni Dabarera
The Women’s Industry of Chamber of Commerce (WCIC), the first women-only trade chamber in Sri Lanka and the world, recently announced that the prestigious ‘Woman Entrepreneur of the Year 2014/2015’ award ceremony will be held on 5 August at the Cinnamon Grand under the patronage of the President Maithripala Sirisena.
“The awards ceremony, which is being held for the ninth consecutive year, hopes to identify and honour the valuable contribution of women entrepreneurs towards the national economy which we proudly acknowledge while inspiring potential women entrepreneurs to reach for the stars in accomplishing their desired goals,” stated WCIC Chairperson Rifa Musthapa.
This year marks the introduction of three new categories, namely – ‘Woman Exporter of the Year,’ ‘Most Promising Young Entrepreneur’ and ‘Best Startup Enterprise’. This is in addition to the awards presented to the high achievers in the micro, small, medium and large categories. The awards ceremony, held once in two years, has recognised over 135 successful women entrepreneurs so far.
Since its inception in 1985 the WCIC has consistently led the way for women enterprise development in Sri Lanka and the awards are a way of showcasing, encouraging and putting the spotlight on outstanding women.
Through WCIC women have been exposed to the greater arena of business, participated in international trade fairs and exhibitions and obtained various types of skills development to further enhance their businesses. They have also organised various programs to provide the knowledge required to maintain finances, enhance credit facilities and get bank loans and to obtain information on taxation and company registration. It has also become a motivating factor for women to move from micro-scale businesses to the SME level.
To share their experiences on how the ‘Woman Entrepreneur of the Year’ awards ceremony boosted confidence and gave them a larger reach for their businesses, three previous winners also attended the press conference. They were Yolanda Aluwihare, owner and head designer of internationally-acclaimed ‘Yoland Collection’; Janakai Davi Kathriarachchi, proprietor of Three Star Organic Farms; and Orency Siriwardhene, the mastermind behind the reputed Sugar Frill Cake cake design industry. According to their perception, women entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka is quite under-tapped and needs much encouragement and Government support if they are to target the export market.
As per 2014 statistics 80% of the Sri Lankan economy is driven by Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs) while only 10% out of these are SMEs owned by women. But out of the total Sri Lankan population 52% accounts for women. Hence, under the theme of ‘Ignite, Influence, Change’ WCIC is motivated to provide a platform for Sri Lankan women to reach out beyond their gender stereotypical roles and to become independent by becoming a financial provider for their families.
“Women entrepreneurship development is an economic imperative and needs to become a national agenda,” declared the WCIC Chairperson.
The applications can be obtained from the WCIC Secretariat; No. 380/7, Sarana Road, Budhdhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7 and the WCIC website www.wcicsl.lk on or before the closing date 20 June.