The above forum conducted today, 25 July at the Galle Face Hotel Colombo, underlines the endeavour of the Chamber to bring ‘Women to the Fore in Exports’. The main objective of this forum is to enhance the participation of Women Entrepreneurs in business, and especially in exports, in terms of the stated policy of the Government to encourage increased participation of women in the economic development of Sri Lanka. The forum will identify issues both at the policy and operational levels which hinders the participation of women in business activities, as well as facilitate cross-border trading transactions to accelerate economic development.
The forum will elaborate the following three important segments:
- Explore ways and means for prospective women entrepreneurs as well as those already engaged in the field of exports in some way, to become aware of the opportunities available to them to actively engage in business activities related to exports, which will be of special benefit to especially SME Entrepreneurs.
- Witness the launch of the ‘Women’s Wing’ by the NCE and become aware of the special services that will be provided by the Chamber to Women Entrepreneurs and other stakeholders.
- Make aware of the activities of the collaborative Project of the Chamber with the Sri Lanka Office of the International Labour Organization (ILO) to link the Producers in the Northern Province related to the agricultural and Fisheries Sectors with Exporters, to source their requirements to supply the export market.
The Chief Guest at the forum will be AmenaArif, Country Director of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank Group, who will add value and depth to the forum from an inclusive growth prospective for women.
The keynote address will be delivered by VaruniAmunugama Fernando, who is a leader in the communications and advertising industry to inspire women entrepreneurs related to her success as a business woman.
The forum will also comprise a panel discussion among a number of well-known personalities who have achieved immense success in their respective fields. The panel discussion will be moderated byDailyFTChief EditorNisthar Cassim.
The panellists who comprise prominent and successful business women are as follows:
- Dr. Sulochana Segera, a top Social Entrepreneur, Trainer and Motivational Speaker with over 24 years of experience. She is a Certified Personality Trainer in Sri Lanka as well as a Trainer for the International Finance Corporation on ‘Sustainable Private Sector Investment’.
- Ramya Weerakoon, Founder Chairperson of Ramya Holdings Ltd., encompassing a Group of Companies which has achieved immense success, particularly related to the Apparel Sector, commencing from small beginnings, currently providing direct employment to over 5500 persons and exporting apparel products to major export markets, suchas the USA, UK, EU Countries as well as the Middle East and Far East countries.
- Sheamalee Wickremasinghe, the Group Managing Director of Ceylon Biscuits Ltd. (CBL Group), which is the leader in the Confectionery Sector and related fields.She is highly qualified in the area Food Science and Food Technology and has over 25 years’ experience in the Industry in various capacities
- Lakmini Wijesundara, a highly successful Woman Entrepreneur in the Information Communication Technology (ICT) Sector, which has hitherto been a field dominated by males. She is the Co-Founder and CEO of Iron One Technologies and Board PAC, and has over 20 years’ experience in Technology Management and Enterprise Soft Ware Development. She has acquired impressive qualifications overseas in the fields of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science.
- Chiranthi Cooray, the Chief Human Resource Officer of the Hatton National Bank, leading the Human Resource Strategic Deliverables of the bank. She is a Senior Certified Professional in the Field of Human Resource Management, who has made an exceptional contribution to the field of Women in Management. She has been conferred many local and international awards during the last five years in the Human Resources and Sustainability Spheres.
- Anushka Wijesinha, an Economist with a track record of Research and Advisory Work across Asia. He is currently the Advisor to the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade, focusing on Trade Reforms, Competitiveness, and Innovation. He leads the implementation of the ‘National Export Strategy’ of the country.
During the Forum the Chamber will also launch its new initiative, the ‘NCE Women’s Wing’to provide services specifically for women exporters as well as potential entrepreneurs and exporters. Under this Wing, the NCE intends to provide a series of services for women who engage in business globally. This includes market information, facilitating the provision of resources, and advice to build a sustainable international business. It will also assist Women Exporters to promote their businesses by developing their business profiles, conducting workshops, e-training courses, mentoring sessions to improve their skills, and assistance to find business partners through participation in Trade Fairs and Business-to-Business (B2B) meetings. A dedicated webpage for women entrepreneurs in the award winning NCE website, will also be launched during the event.
The NCE has already implemented noteworthy activities to assist women-led businesses in Sri Lanka. These include the following:
- Participation in the Project for ‘Economic Empowerment of Women in the Indian Ocean Ring Association’ (IORA) Countries, within the framework of the She Trades initiative of the International Trade Centre in Geneva, which has been implemented in three countries; Indonesia, Kenya and Sri Lanka. The main objective of this Project has been to enhance the economic empowerment of women by increasing the participation of Export Ready Women in Business Enterprises related to International Trade and Investment.Thisproject has connected women-owned and women-led Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs), predominantly in the Tourism and Information Technology as well as Information Technology Enabled Services (IT and ITES) sectors with international markets. The project has directly supported 110 women-led SMEs in Sri Lanka, and has also supported more than 100 beneficiaries indirectly.
The NCE in collaboration with the IORA Project has also assisted 10 women-owned or women-led SMEs in tourism related goods to enhance their knowledge on how to unlocktheir market potential, through training on product diversification, as well as the means to become more competitive in international markets.
Further in recognition of the significant role played by trade support institutions, such as the NCE by assisting women-owned and women-led SMEs for economic empowerment; capacity building and training activities have been conducted on digital marketing and e-commerce, pitching for international success, access to finance and financial management, legal regulations related to business activities, buyer stimulation supplier diversification,focused product market combination, strategic decision on market entries, improving export sales, as well as training to address challenges and constraints faced by women-owned and women-led SMEs, by offering coordinated services to support their access to international markets. The special segment of the forum related to the ‘Employment Generation Livelihood through Reconciliation’ (EGLR) Project implemented by the NCE in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Office of the International Labour Organization (ILO) will highlight the activities of the Chamber to link Producers in the Northern Province in the Agriculture and Fisheries Sectors with established Exporters in the South to introduce their Products to international markets, and facilitate export marketing for economic gain. This segment will also highlight the successful business linkages established so far for mutual benefit as a result of the regular conduct of Business Delegation to the North, to encourage new entrants to this effort both in respect of Exporters and Producers, in view of the immense benefits that would accrue to them.
Those who participate at this forum today, are bound to immensely benefit, through the rich sources of information that will be made available to them covering the three main segments of the forum stated above.