The plight of migrant workers in the Gulf

In 2014 an estimated 300,000 men and women left Sri Lanka to work primarily in the Gulf States. The majority of men went into the construction industry whilst the women accepted jobs as housemaids. They went because they wanted to provide for a better life for their families, and the government was happy for them to go; not least because the money they send back (remittances ) amounts to $7billion; or 9% of GDP.

What the migrants didn’t know or expect was that the contracts they were promised would never materialise and many of them would end up working in conditions which amount to modern slavery.

This recent report in the Sri Lankan Daily Mirror is a good place to start: www.dailymirror.lk/article/Fotune-favoured-Rani-from-the-jaws-of-death11936

Sri Lanka does not rank highly on the Global Slavery Index, yet pollsters estimate there are approximately 26,000 Sri Lankans trapped in a form of modern slavery in 2016;

My guess is that you might find this hard to believe, but that is because:

  1. Slavery is illegal, so it is either hidden tacitly ignored by the authorities or denied by the perpetrators. But in any case it goes unrecorded; one example Ask yourself next time you stop at the traffic lights in Colombo. Do the beggars you see keep the money you give them or are they forced to hand it over to  others in exchange for the most basic of food and shelter; in effect slaves. We could go on.. the case of sex workers would be another instance
  2. More importantly; most Sri Lankans trapped in slavery are not living in Sri Lanka but in The Gulf States
Facts and Figures: Migrant workers
  • An estimated 1.7 million Sri Lankans are employed abroad affecting 1 in 4 households.
  • A total of 300,413  left for employment in 2014 of which 63.2 were males and 37% were females
  •  80% of females were employed as domestic workers
  • The Middle East is the largest source of remittances: 60%
  • Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar are their main destinations
Why they go

You can think of three groups of factors; geographers will already be familiar with them:

Push Factors:
  • Low incomes whether in rural or urban areas; not enough income to adequately support a young family. Even where there is relatively full employment, wages are low. A textile factory worker will not earn much more than 25000 rupees per month; not enough to sustain a comfortable way of life. The same is true of office workers. Few are paid a living wage.
  • Lack of opportunity for advancement
  • Political patronage at a local level
  • A general feeling that life must be better elsewhere
Pull Factors
  • the promise of high incomes
Facilitating factors
  • migration to the Middle East is a well trodden path; often an individual will know of people in their community who are already migrants; they hear the stories…
  • some migrants already have people living and working in the Gulf who can help them get jobs
  • local agents and their contacts who are active in local communities arranging documents
Plus, of course they have no idea of what is waiting for them when they get to their destination
Where they go and where they come from

The top destinations are Saudi Arabia, Qatar, The Emirates and Kuwait with smaller numbers heading to Oman and Jordan. Whilst Western province is the biggest exporter in terms of numbers; in terms of the % of the population it is, in fact Ampara Trincomalee and Puttalam who export the biggest % of their population; (around 3%) annually

Life for a domestic migrant worker in the Gulf States

The migrants are often recruited by unscrupulous and unregulated agents on the promise of high incomes. The agents or employers not only pay their fares, but also arrange for passports and visas, sometimes illegally.

Migrant labourers often receive a monetary advance as an incentive to work overseas. What they are not told, or don’t realise is that these incentives will bind them into debt upon arrival in their host country. Worse is to follow: recruitment agencies in the host country regularly commit fraud by changing the agreed upon job, employer, conditions, or remuneration after the worker’s arrival.

A recent report alleged that the police and other officials in Sri Lanka accept bribes, and some sub-agents reportedly work with officials to procure forged or modified documents, or genuine documents with falsified data, to facilitate travel abroad for those desperate for a better life. The problem is that these documents are not legal. The migrant enters a country with these documents and is immediately at the mercy of their employers who could report them at any moment.

The report also observed that the Sri Lankan government does not have the ability to regulate sub-agents under the SLBFE, which officials recognized as a problem contributing to trafficking.

The situation is made worse because the migrants have little knowledge of the situations they are going to end up in. For domestic workers in particular, this involves the Kefala system, which ties the domestic worker to one employer, effectively giving that employer full control over the migrant worker. (click on the link to check this out)

The reality is that the migrants end up in slavery. Their passports are often taken from them. Employers routinely pay well below what the workers were promised, and sometimes refuse to pay their workers at all. Housemaids in particular live under conditions similar to house arrest: subject to mistreatment, abuse and both physical and sometimes sexual violence.

Kuwaiti journalists attend a Human Rights Watch press conference in Kuwait City on October 6, 2010 announcing a new report that shows abuse of domestic workers in Kuwait is rising, and maids in the Gulf emirate face prosecution when they try to escape. AFP PHOTO/YASSER AL-ZAYYAT (Photo credit should read YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/AFP/Getty Images)

This summary from Digital Commons says it all
  • Complaints: 12,061 of which 78% females
  • Physical and sexual harassment: 96% female
  • Not sent back at the end of contract: 92% female
  • Not payment of agreed wages: 81% female
  • Breach of contract: 62% female
  • in 2009 333 deaths of housemaids working abroad were recorded
  • 2009 survey states about housemaid returnees to Sri Lanka
  • 48% were assaulted by someone from the employer’s household
  • 52% were not paid the promised salary
  • 84% were not paid for their overtime work

The situation for the women who end up in domestic work can be grim and there are plenty of examples you can find for yourself by going online: For example have a look at:

rothna-saudi_arabic_mdw_op-ed-october_2015-photo

see link; serious violence in the Gulf States

this an extract from another victim’s story

“Even if I went to bed at 3:30 a.m., I had to get up by 5:30 a.m I had continuous work until 1:00 a.m., sometimes 3:00 a.m…. Once I told the employer, “I am a human like you and I need an hour to rest.” She told me, “You have come to work; you are like my shoes, and you have to work tirelessly.”

The conditions were getting worse. I told the employer that I wanted to leave but she would not take me to the agency. [Her husband] would say, “You want to go, you want to go?” and he would pull my hair and beat me with his hands. He went to the kitchen and took a knife and told me he would kill me, cut me up into little pieces, and put the little pieces of me in the cupboard By this time they owed me four months’ salary.

There are more and more innocent women going abroad, and planning to go. It is up to the women to care of themselves. The [Sri Lankan] government gets a good profit from us; they must take care of us. They must do more to protect us.”

Kumari Indunil, age 23, a former domestic worker in Kuwait

Qatar : The Plight of construction workers

This You Tube clip speaks for itself and needs nothing extra from me

So why is this happening?

Simple answer? Nobody cares!

  • So far as the domestic employers in the Arab world are concerned there is probably little that can be done to combat the blatant racism that exists or to combat an arrogant attitude which views servants as property, and is simply a reflection of the values and attitudes of wealthy Kuwaiti, Saudi, Qatari and Emirati society. They simply don’t see what they are doing wrong. Their servants are theirs to dispose of as they wish without threat of law; they are not viewed as equal human beings in any sense. This clip sums it up.
  • Migrant workers have no legal protection or legal rights in the countries where they work., plus they are usually unaware of what their rights are
  • Some feel that the exporting governments do little to put pressure on the host governments to remedy the situation and do little to support them when they get into difficulties
So what needs to be done?

To begin with  there is a need to collect data to improve understanding of:

  • who is migrating
  • from which villages
  • what factors govern their decision to migrate
  • what factors influence the choice of where they migrate
  • what role recruitment agents playing the migration process; how do they persuade people to move? Are agents regulated, audited or even licensed?

Mapping the results allows NGOs and government organisations to focus initially on areas which are hotspots of out-migration to the Gulf and then to develop a better understanding of the migration process.

After that there are two approaches that could be considered.

  1. Reduce the flow of migrants to the Gulf
  2. Improve the conditions for those who still want to go
Reducing the Flow
  1.  The obvious answer is to give people a positive reason NOT to migrate in search of work. Poverty is the driving force. Now the government would argue that only 8% of the population fall below the poverty line, but that line is drawn very low. Unemployment per se is not the issue. However, large numbers of Sri lankans earn less than 30,000 rupees per month; this is not a living wage, so what can be done? There are options:
  • a realistic minimum living wage for paid employment enshrined in law would be a start; companies making big profits on the back of cheap labour may not like that idea..
  • improved subsidies to farmers to raise their incomes; this could be paid for out of taxation if taxes were collected more efficiently.
  • looking at ways of decentralising economic activities from the large cities like Colombo, improving infrastructure and road connections in order to spread economic growth. The governments Megalopolis plan could be a large step towards achieving this

2.  Help local people to develop small scale businesses using cheap forms of credit and support from local NGO’s like Sevanatha and The Institute of Women in Management  and the women’s co-operative bank

check out the links and you will see that what they do is:

  • Equip leaders to negotiate with local authorities on behalf of their communities to improve their socio-economic conditions
  • Develop local credit /savings bank operations run by and for the local community (often by local women) which can fund small businesses locally
  • Support and encourage women to take a bigger role as community leaders or as small scale entrepreneurs.

What the above can do is help to create cohesive communities and develop viable economic alternatives to migration for local people.

3.  Educate people to the stark realities of life on a construction site in Qatar or imprisoned in a home in Saudi Arabia : a negative reason not to go.

  • set up groups led by victims to visit communities to tell their stories
  • disseminate material to vulnerable communities on the realities of working conditions in the Gulf: it could be illustrated books, video material, victim narratives
  • mobilise  the press to tell these stories and place the spotlight.

AT the same time pressure must come from politicians, NGO’s the media and local people to force the authorities to ensure all agents are properly registered and licensed via the SLBFE for example. The issue of licences must be on the basis of conditions, which are stringent, open, and subject to scrutiny and enshrined in law. All agents should be required to lodge a bond with the authorities to be used to meet the costs of repatriation, and loss of earnings where migrants fall foul of local practices in the Gulf and need to return home.

Unlicensed agents must be prosecuted, along with corrupt government officials and police, as must those who knowingly mislead clients and do not exercise a duty of care. At present very few licensed agents are audited and few are ever prosecuted.

b.  Addressing the situation in the Gulf States

 The surest way to force a change in attitudes amongst employers in the Gulf is to dramatically cut down the flow of migrant labour. In that respect the SLBFE should be taking pro-active steps to warn migrants of the potential situations they could find themselves in.

In the meantime: there are issues to overcome:

  • governments from source countries like that of Sri Lanka (India, Nepal, Pakistan also) need to become more pro-active in lobbying host governments to ensure their citizens are protected.
  • the appalling nature of working conditions in the construction industry requires immediate attention. British companies engaged in building stadia in Qatar who appear to be indifferent at best to the plight of workers on the construction sites should be prosecuted under  the Modern Slavery Act where they are failing to heed the warnings of the British Government over working conditions.

Steps that should be taken:

  1. The dismantling of the Kefala system immediately.
  2. Migrants must be allowed to retain their passports at all times.
  3. Migrant workers must be afforded through their visa status full rights as they would apply to resident nationals, enshrined in law.
  4. Workers need to be better educated in terms of their rights as migrant workers. Lack of awareness on legal procedures, lax law enforcement  and the inability to communicate in the host country’s local languages all leave migrants vulnerable to exploitation.
  5. Employers whether companies or private households should be prosecuted where clear human rights abuses have occurred and must be made to honour the contracts they signed again under penalty of law.
  6. In the case of Qatar all countries engaged in qualifying for the next World Cup should threaten to boycott the event unless conditions change.

Within the Gulf States the embassies of the “exporting” countries should at least have staff fully trained to support abused victims. There should be a list of all addresses where migrants are living; regular checks made on them visits to ensure health and well being, wages are being paid, and they are not subject to mistreatment or abuse.

Key legal reforms are needed to ensure the most vulnerable workers, particularly domestic workers, who must be covered by basic labour law protection.

Steps must be taken to make certain victims are not further traumatized by arrest and detention if they run away to escape violence or exploitation.

Despite their contributions to their host countries, women migrants are not generally assured of basic protection. A simple 40-day mandatory training programme by the SLBFE does not simply address the concerns of those who seek foreign employment. Employers and recruiters alike must be held responsible for their role in exploiting the helpless workers.

What this needs, however, is co-operation between the sending countries and the host countries. However, if the host governments are unwilling to comply then governments like that of Sri Lanka should take steps to stop the flow of migrants to those countries, which they can do at the exit airports. Although painful in the short run tapping the economic potential of the poor at home, turning them into productive individuals through community and self help schemes could be a way forward and would spare many the fate that awaits them at the hands of  employers in the Middle East.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7pkhFnwXkImeasures should be taken to challenge perceptions about migrant workers, in order to recognize their values and contribution to the development of the country.

See more at: http://www.dailymirror.lk/115002/Vague-promises-of-greener-pastures-for-migrant-workers#sthash.iHusvVN2.dpuf

 

Advertisements

Short term lets on the rise in Sri lanka: is this good for the tourism industry?

The informal tourism sector is growing in Sri Lanka and Hiran Cooray Chairman of the Tourist hotels of Sri Lanka for one thinks it’s a good thing.  ( see  report in the Daily Mirror )

So do I.

By his reckoning 2/5th of tourists coming to Sri Lanka now stay in rented apartments, villas and homestay accommodation many of which are rented out via organisations such as Homestay.com Trip Advisor, AirB&B and the like.

Benefits

So why is this a good thing? Let’s start with the positive side.

  • Money paid by tourists goes directly to local people;

“Tourists staying within the local communities pass the revenue directly to the bottom of the income pyramid, fast-tracking grass root level economic development.” Hiran Cooray

  • Visiting tourists get to mix with local people rather than stay cooped up in hotels full of foreigners and they get to experience and enjoy true Sri Lankan hospitality; plus they get to hang out away from traditional tourist areas.
  • Because tourist are using existing facilities there is no additional strain on local authority services
  • The emergence of the informal rental market actually expands what Sri Lanka has to offer to tourists.

Not everyone (Chinese apart maybe) wants to stay in an hotel. A significant number of tourists like to do their own thing, explore local areas eat when they want in and around local Sri Lankans, and so on. They don’t want to be “trapped” in a cramped and possibly quite expensive hotel room. They like the space and informality that the informal sector can offer and when you can stay in an apartment in Havelock City for example.. at a much lower cost.. well why wouldn’t you?

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAIoAAAAJGUwZDE2Zjg1LTc5ZmQtNDk3Zi1iMmM1LWM2YzRhZTYwYWZhMQ

Havelock City; example of apartment

doing away with the negatives :

  • Unlike the major developments which are springing up around the coast from Kalpitiya to Mirissa and down the east coast; there is no negative environmental impact.
  • There are no major costs to be borne by local communities, economic, environmental or social
  • Homestay and the rental market place no extra strain on stretched local authority services such as electricity, water supply and refuse disposal (although the latter doesn’t seem to be working that well)
Costs
  • owners of rented accommodation don’t pay tourist taxes
  • they are not registered; no-one knows how many there are
  • there is no real quality control beyond what TripAdvisor and AIR B&B can exert
Is it a threat?

So does  the hotel sector needs to worry? No of course not. Sri Lanka can offer world class tourist accommodation for those who want it; plus Colombo is set become a signicant business hub in South Asia so the growth of business tourism which depends on quality hotels is almost assured.

It’s just that not every one can afford the prices that some city centre hotels charge in Colombo for example.

(I could add from my experience that for the money sometimes the service could be a whole lot better, some hotel staff could be a little less “up themselves” but that is for another blog.)

Where it is possible to agree with the Hotels Association is that it is not a level playing field because the informal sector are mainly unregistered and do not have to pay the tourist tax and development levy paid by the hotel chains.

True but the owners do pay local and regional taxes; adding the other costs could simply cause them to raise their rentals to a level where they would not get business so thinking about applying these extra costs or banning the advertising of short term rental and homestay on the web (as has happened in New York for example) is not a step to be taken lightly.

That said there is a case for regulation to be introduced in homestay and private rentals to ensure quality and value for money.

Research needed

In the meantime there is very little data available on the growth of the informal sector at present and maybe it would be worth conducting research so that all concerned know what it is they are discussing.

So time to start asking questions;

  • Where do informal sector tourists stay ? In Colombo? Western Province? Or coastal areas? Maybe it would be worth finding out.

To judge by the Air B&B site much of it is in and around Colombo. If that is so then is it a bad thing? Getting more people to visit Colombo and stay for longer, not necessarily in the city centre can only be good for the economy.

  • Who are these type of  tourists; where do they come from?
  • How long do they stay?
  • What do they do, where do they go what do they visit?
  • Why do they choose rental/homestay?
  • What about the owners/renters: who are they? What accommodation is being used and why?
  • How much money is it making for the owners?

As I wrote in an earlier blog; A Paradise Lost ; see https://geosrilanka.wordpress.com/2015/06/16/sri-lanka-tourism-is-it-just-a-case-of-re-branding/, my belief is that Sri Lankan tourism needs a balanced portfolio of investment; homestay and apartment rentals are.   a part of that, (as is mass tourism) because it has the value of bringing tourists much closer to an understanding of Sri Lankan life and culture.

After all, there is nothing better than hanging out around Water’s Edge on a Saturday night along with the thousands of families who come to chill, enjoy the street food , and relax over an affordable beer maybe.. and you don’t get to do that at The Cinnamon Grand

Boardwalk

 

Dengue Update: Is Sri Lanka winning the war?

Worrying trends

Until recently  the number of reported dengue cases in Sri Lanka has been increasing at an alarming rate; this chart only goes up to 2013. The upward trend is steep especially when you add in the 2014 figure: 47502!

graph1

Of those cases by far the majority were reported in Western Province (the most densely populated region of Sri Lanka).

For those living in Colombo the growth of Dengue has been particularly worrying. In 2010 there were just under 6,000 cases reported in Colombo. That rose to 10,000 in 2012 and, worryingly, 14,700 in 2014; that is 30% of all cases reported on the island.

For an up to date count of cases check out Dengue Count

Getting better?

However, this year the trend has been reversed; in 2015 there were 29777 reported cases. The number of cases in Colombo is down below 10,000; again good news although the city still accounts  for over 30%  of all cases.

So what went wrong in the past?

Reading back over some references I came across an article in the Sunday Times which probably sums up the problems of the past. These are just some of the points the journalists made

  1. There is no coordination among all relevant authorities on this issue of national importance and only ad hoc programmes are carried out whenever there is a crisis, was the view expressed by many including the public.
  2. Assistant Secretary of Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) Dr. Upul Gunasekara said in the report that the Dengue Control Act, though brought in with good intentions was not practical. “There seems to be an administrative failure,” he said, adding that authorities such as the Ministries of Local Government, Environment and Education should be part of the group. “MOHs and PHIs can educate the public, but the local bodies must clear the garbage, the environment authorities must find solutions to the rubbish issue and the education authorities must chip in and instruct schools on a routine basis about cleanliness.

I remember when I researched  an article on Dengue for Geographical Review in 2012 it seemed to me that dengue controls were not being enforced; newspapers routinely reported that landowners, schools, commercial premises and households either ignored advice or flouted the law. I was told of operatives in Kotte who were selling off the insecticides to the highest bidder or charging exorbitant amounts to spray neighbourhoods. Routine fogging was noticeable by its absence

and what may be going right now?

But maybe things have turned around?  One years’ figures prove very little but if the downward trend is maintained much credit will be due to the Epidemiology Unit of the Ministry of Health, and the Centre for Dengue Research.

There is a lot of work ongoing which is aimed at dealing with dengue. There are two strands to this work;

  • dealing with the mosquito and its breeding grounds
  • trying to find a way to immunise the population; a dengue jab if you like

The use of insecticides and routine fogging are commonplace but on their own they cannot control the mosquito; to do that as everyone knows you need to remove the breeding grounds and there has been a lot of public information put out there;

top5breedingsports

Getting people engaged is the key; what excites me is that G.I.S. mapping is now being used on an extensive basis to build a detailed picture of dengue: where cases occur, how many cases and so on. in Sri Lanka (other countries as well)

It goes like this;

  1. first map the location of all newly reported cases of Dengue using GIS technology
  2. Identify hotspots of dengue from the maps
  3. make site visits to the hotspot areas and try to identify where the main mosquito breeding areas are
  4. take steps to destroy the breeding areas; enforce where necessary the law in relation to dengue control

I first came across this idea in a paper written in 2008. You can find details here. Researchers visited Kadugannawa near Kandy where dengue was endemic. They used GIS and GPS technology to locate and map dengue hotspots, create risk maps and to  use various vector control methods on the mosquito population. As a result the incidence of dengue fever reduced.

Now it seems the Centre for Dengue Research has taken this further: they are carrying out two related projects:

  1. Geospatial mapping of dengue transmission in the Colombo district
  2. Defining environmental factors that affect dengue transmission

and they have come up with a set of maps which show for the first time where the dengue hotspots are; check this out.

 

img-gis1

using these maps the group have been able to produce a “hotspot” map see below

img-gis2

you can see how the hotspots which have been identified are the same for each time period; that in turn means that the can produce a kind of risk map for Colombo

 img-gis4

Armed with that information the authorities can focus on the key problem areas and to control the breeding sites of the mosquito.

Like I said; information is the key!

Mo buzz; using the power of social media

and check out this: using the power of social media The Colombo Municipal Council’s Public Health Department along with Sri Lanka Telecom Mobitel, the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU) and the University of Colombo, School of Computing (UCSC) launched the ‘Mo-Buzz Dengue’ App. So now anyone can use the Android-based Mo-Buzz Dengue application to send a complaint about mosquito breeding sites to the CMC  by taking and sending a picture of the breeding site using the app, which automatically transmits the location of the complaint to the CMC, who can then deal with the problem.

if you haven’t already you should check out MO Buzz at http://www.mo-buzz.org/srilanka/

Getting people engaged in the fight mobilising the power of social media, coming down hard on those who ignore or flout the law, getting the information out there to the people so they can take the steps they need to control the mosquito.. that is what it is really all about.

It is too early to say whether the Sri Lankan authorities are getting the upper hand but the signs are promising. The authorities are taking the issue of dengue seriously now, and although dengue fever is unlikely to be eradicated any more than influenza will disappear from the UK, there is some hope that it is being brought under control.

Footnote: I spoke to a senior epidemiologist at the Centre for Dengue Research recently. She cautioned not to read too much into one year’s data. Often a bad year is followed by a year when the number of reported cases falls. This year (2016) so far there have been just over 9700 cases reported a little less than last year but.. in Colombo the numbers are 300 higher than 2015, and locally the authorities warn of a new epidemic, so maybe the disease is fighting back. It seems we will need to wait to see how 2016 pans out before we can start thinking about any real progress in the fight to contain dengue.

See also the latest article.. Dengue Count; Sri Lanka

In the meantime check out Newsfirst : http://newsfirst.lk/english/2016/01/dengue-outbreak-in-colombo-health-ministry-warns-public/125976

 

Sisters doing it for themselves: a Sri Lankan success story

 

Case Study: women and the development process

When it comes to defining development I am not a great fan of using economic indicators like GDP,  or,  in fact any indicators which are used in isolation. To me development indicators just seem to be convenient hooks on which to hang some figures or construct tables in order to compare countries, nothing more. I am not even sure that the Human Development Index really tells us that much beyond average conditions and says very little about self development, which I think is a more interesting avenue to study.

Last February I was visiting a number of community self help projects in and around Colombo. We were shown round by the community leaders; all women, and what struck me was how strong and committed these leaders were. They appeared to be  confident and well informed, obviously used to  lobbying local politicians and representing their communities; one example of women driving the development process forward, helping to improve their neighbourhoods and at the same time developing their own skills and I suspect sense of self worth.

The Women’s Co-op Bank which I wrote about last time out is another example of women developing themselves, their self confidence and their skills and at the same time driving development forwards by improving the lives of their communities.

So, just before I left Colombo in 2014 I went to visit Sulochana Segera – Chairperson and  founder of Women in Management, now called the Institute of Women in Management. I visited her at her shop Amma and caught up with her in session with a group of around twenty women. She was talking to them about how they could develop their micro businesses more effectively. The women listened intently; all part and parcel of a day in the life of the Women in Management team.

As a result of 30 years of conflict many women have been left as head of their family. They have to survive and support their families without the kind of state support we might expect in the UK. Many have the skills to set up in micro business but find it very difficult to get a start.

Women who want to improve themselves and their families face many restrictions:

  • women are still treated as second class citizens and as such are held back
  • they face harassment especially in rural areas
  • access to finance is all but impossible
  • as a result many women lack the self confidence needed to start up a business

In 2010 Sulochana founded  Women in Management. It now has over 25,000 members countrywide. At the centre of it all is an experienced team of around 35 trainers, all professional women.

 

The management team at the Institute of Women in Management
The management team at the Institute of Women in Management

 

The way it works is as follows: Members of the management team tour the country and conduct open meetings which are for all women in the area. At the meeting local women learn about the work of the Institute and how it can support them to develop their own businesses. An additional but important part of the work is the emphasis on self help and empowerment.

06

 

the list of past events is impressive; see http://www.womeninmanagement.org/past-events-2014.html and a glance at the meeting agendas shows where the emphasis lies:

Topics include:

  • Being a woman and Attitude
  • Preparing a Business Plan
  • Market Place and Knowing your customers
  • Basic Book Keeping

(taken from the website: Coca-Cola 5by20 Women Empowerment Workshop Batticaloa)

Support does not include loans for one very simple reason; taking a loan can leave a single parent family vulnerable because she is now in debt; and that could end up with her losing property or falling deeper into poverty as she struggles to repay the loan and interest.

Instead the emphasis is on:

  • advice and support from qualified management team members for example; planning, marketing, packaging, pricing and business organisation
  • access to the W.I.M. website which can help the women to market their products to wider markets
  • Selling products via the shop Amma in Colombo, which showcases and stocks some of the products the women make; check out http://www.ceylontoday.lk/13-54912-news-detail-changing-lives-through-womens-empowerment.html

And the project is successful. Since 2012  WIM with the support of Coca-Cola Sri Lanka has worked with over 2000 women in Sri Lanka helping them to develop the skills and self confidence to build their businesses and to re-build their lives in many cases.

Women make up 50% of both the population and potential work force; a resource that so far in many emerging economies is underused. Building development from the bottom up,  bringing women, their energies and skills into the workplace can contribute just as much as the “big projects” in terms of helping to realise the development potential of a country. Supporting the programmes of organisations like Women in Management would go a long way to realising that potential.

Note: The Coca Cola ‘5BY20’ programme:

Through the ‘5BY20’ initiative, training programs organized together with WIM, have given the women the training they need in terms of the knowledge the to independently plan, make their own products with financial services, business skills training and the connections they require with peers and mentors.

see http://www.ft.lk/2015/03/02/coca-colas-5by20-program-continues-to-empower-women-across-sri-lanka/

Next Up: for anyone looking for a case study of a vector borne disease
Dengue Update: it looks like Sri Lanka has made inroads into dealing with dengue; next blog will overview Dengue and review recent progress using GIS tools