Hambantota District Women Entrepreneurs’ Forum debuts

Monday, 6 August 2012 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The inaugural meeting of Hambantota District Women Entrepreneurs’ Forum was held in June 2012 with the participation of 66 women entrepreneurs. The idea for the forum came about after Hambantota District Chamber of Commerce (HDCC) carried out capacity-building workshops with women entrepreneurs in the district. 

In 2011, HDCC and the USAID Supporting Regional Governance Program (SuRG) set in motion a project to promote Entrepreneurship and Empowering Women in Hambantota District, with support from the Secretary of State’s Office of Women’s Global Issues (S/WGI).

The project underpins the formation of a Businesswomen’s Wing in the Chamber, aiming to help women overcome cultural barriers, and to increase their representation and lobbying power in business. It will work to harness the potential of women by empowering them, economically and psychologically, to make creative, informed life and career choices. This will be aided by integrated interventions focused on creating a society in Hambantota with balanced female representation in business leadership, making a direct contribution to overall economic sustainability.

Hambantota District Women Entrepreneurs’ Forum will serve as a networking platform and create a voice for businesswomen. Its objectives will be to facilitate information sharing among different groups of women, encouraging them to take control of their businesses. This includes setting their own agendas and timetables, and gaining skills and knowledge to increase their business confidence. This in turn should allow them equal access to economic and productive resources, and help to eradicate poverty among this section of the community.  

At the meeting, Managing Director of Chanaka Metal (Pvt.) Ltd in Tangalle, Chithra Sumanaseeli, was appointed President. Other appointments were: Director of Ruhunu Bakers (Pvt.) Ltd, Thushara Kumuduni, Vice President; Proprietor of Susitha Rice Mills, Nandawathi, Treasure; and Proprietor of HTS Bags, Shamila Niorsha Allan, Secretary. Seven additional businesswomen were elected office bearers.

Also participating were USAID-SuRG Chief of Party Susan Ward, HDCC President Alhaj M. Shaheed Usuph, past presidents and the board of directors. Past Presidents Tilar Nadugala and Azmi Thassim are serving as consultants to the project, and facilitated the forum. The Minister of Disaster Management Mahinda Amaraweeera, graced the occasion and delivered an inspirational speech. He said, “This is a good initiative. As the government we warmly welcome this and will play a more proactive role in the future.”   

The ‘Promoting Entrepreneurship and Empowering Women in the Hambantota District’ project has awarded 50 business start-up loans to women entrepreneurs in the district since the project began in July 2011. It has provided training to aspiring businesswomen to help them turn their ideas into a fully-fledged business. Through the project, HDCC is also working with existing businesswomen in the district, helping them improve their business management knowledge and skills and supporting them to access the range of resources offered to the business community by HDCC.