The pandemic has highlighted the urgency of economic empowerment for women and girls all over the world. But there is a particular urgency to address the challenges being faced by female-headed households, which make up over a quarter of Sri Lankan homes.
Tharshani, now 45, had already been struggling to make ends meet since her husband died 15 years ago due to the conflict. But since the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns that started last year, her income from poultry farming has dropped, and her eldest daughter, who they relied on for household expenses, has found no daily-wage work.
“During the lockdown we had to take loans from our neighbours,” said Tharshani (not her real name). “We were struggling to find money for food, and my son had to go to school every day without breakfast. I was afraid he might not be able to continue his education,” said the mother of three.
Tharshani’s story is by no means unusual in Sri Lanka, where over a quarter of households (25.8% percent, or 1.4 million) are headed by women. More than half of those are run by widows – more than one in 10 of all the country’s households. Many of those lost their husbands in the civil conflict that ravaged the country from 1983 to 2009.
“Women are losing their livelihoods faster” than men in the pandemic, explained Ramaaya Salgado, Country Focal Point at UN Women in Sri Lanka. “This is because they are exposed to hard-hit economic sectors, have less access to social protections and are more likely to be burdened with unpaid care and domestic work. Female heads of households in particular carry a double burden in caring for their dependants and being the sole breadwinner of the family,” she said.
“Long-term investment in social protection is needed to ensure female heads of households are resilient in the face of crisis situations. Hence, women’s economic empowerment must be at the heart of COVID-19 response and recovery.”
Recovering from the COVID-19 crisis must include urgent policy action to introduce economic support packages for vulnerable women, according to the UN Women publication ‘Gender Equality in the Wake of COVID-19’.
Further, the publication highlights that eliminating inequality in the labour market is more urgent than ever. This includes addressing issues related to occupational segregation, gender pay gaps and inadequate access to affordable childcare. Data on socioeconomic effects as well as improved and up-to-date gender-responsive data collection systems are also vital to understanding the pandemic’s impact on different groups of women.
Last year, with support from the government of Australia (DFAT), UN Women in Sri Lanka together with local NGO Viluthu have supported more than 1,300 female-headed households through the delivery of emergency relief packs including dry rations to meet their daily needs.
“With enough supplies for the next few months, I am now able to save up to cover the costs of my son’s education”, says Tharshani who was also among those that received the emergency relief packs.
2020 marked the 25th anniversary of the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which set out how to remove the systemic barriers that hold women back from equal participation in all areas of life. To ensure economic empowerment of female heads of households like Tharshani, COVID-19 is a reminder that urgent action is needed to invest in the future of women and girls in Sri Lanka, and around the world.
Aitken Spence invests in yet another renewable energy project in hydropower
Dr. Parakrama Dissanayake – Deputy Chairman and Managing Director Aitken Spence PLC accepting the share transfer form from Harsha Abeywickrama – chairman Sunshine Energy Ltd; in the presence of Ms. Stasshani Jayawardena – Executive Director Aitken Spence PLC, Dr. Rohan Fernando – Executive Director Aitken Spence PLC, Ms. Nilanthi Sivapragasam – Chief Financial Officer Aitken Spence PLC and Leel Wickremarachchi – Managing Director of the power segment from Aitken Spence PLC. Shyam Sathasivam – Managing Director, Sunshine Energy Ltd. and Harin Udeshi – Director, Waltrim Energy Ltd.
Aitken Spence PLC recently acquired Waltrim Energy Limited, a subsidiary of Sunshine Holdings PLC for Rs. 900 million. The company contributes 6.6MW to the national grid via three mini hydropower plants located in the Nuwara Eliya district, namely of Waltrim Hydropower (Private) Limited, Upper Waltrim Hydropower (Private) Limited and Elgin Hydropower (Private) Limited. Waltrim hydropower draws energy from Kothmala Oya, Upper Waltrim hydropower and Elgin hydropower from Dambagasthwala Oya.
Aitken Spence expands its portfolio in hydropower in the pursuit of meeting rising energy demands, sustainable development, access to clean energy and lowering our national carbon footprint. This is the second hydropower plant which is owned and operated by Aitken Spence. Branford Hydropower (Pvt) Ltd. is the other hydropower plant with a 2.5MW capacity located in Matale. The company also owns and operates a wind power plant with 3MW capacity located in Ambewela.
“This is yet another investment made by Aitken Spence that shows our commitment to expand the power generation portfolio with renewable energy projects. Hydro power plays a key role in renewable energy segment in Sri Lanka and this initiative strengthens the country’s efforts to move towards cleaner energy sources and effective and efficient management of sustainable and affordable generation of energy supplied to the national grid,” commented Dr. Parakrama Dissanayake, Deputy Chairman and Managing Director of Aitken Spence PLC.
“Aitken Spence maintains highest environmental, safety and quality standards in the management of our power plants. These stringent management frameworks will be extended to the newly acquired power plants to meet compliance requirements as well as global benchmarks for cleaner production of energy,” added Leel Wickremarachchi, Managing Director of the power segment of Aitken Spence.
The Power segment of Aitken Spence is a leading player in the sector with a reputation for investing in pioneering technologies and has diversified into renewable energy by establishing hydro power and wind power plants to support Sri Lanka’s demand for energy. With their commitment to increase the country’s energy consumption from renewable energy sources, the company recently introduced Sri Lanka’s first waste to energy power plant that was officially launched in February 2021. Moreover, these initiatives are in line with the collective efforts of government and the private sector to produce clean energy sustainably.
Best Woman Entrepreneur at Entrepreneur Awards 2020
Christell Skin Clinic proved their mettle as industry leaders yet again, by clinching the three topmost awards at the recently held Western Province Entrepreneurship Awards Ceremony 2020. The highly-anticipated annual event -jointly organised by the National Enterprise Development Authority (NEDA) and the National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka- took place this year at the BMICH.
The event brought together industry leaders and newcomers with the aim to recognise and honour micro, small, medium and large sector entrepreneurs that have contributed significantly to Sri Lanka’s service sector over the past year.
The country’s leading aesthetics and wellness centre took home The Best Enterprise service sector trophy, as well as the Best Entrepreneur of the Year award – the most sought-after prize of the night. More notably however, the Best Woman Entrepreneur title was awarded to the director of the Christell Skin Clinic, Dr. Shanika Arsecularatne, in recognition of her inspirational journey to becoming one of the most successful businesswomen in the country, and also of her outstanding contribution to the field of cosmetology and wellness in Sri Lanka.
“I’m truly honoured to receive this recognition, especially because I believe that no one receives an award like this out of sheer luck, but rather in acknowledgement and appreciation of the hard work, sleepless nights and sacrifices we have all made, to be where we are today,” said Dr. Arsecularatne on accepting her award.
Plastic Modified Asphalt Concrete car park in Sri Lanka
The car park of the Walgama Food City with its new “Paving with Plastic”
As a socially responsible corporate citizen, Cargills holds a strong commitment to serving the nation and preserving the planet for future generations. By partnering with AGC Innovate Pvt Ltd – one of the country’s leading innovative solutions providers – Cargills initiated the launch of “Paving with Plastic” as a means to address Sri Lanka’s plastic waste menace in an ecofriendly and pragmatic approach.
The benefits of plastic are irrefutable – this versatile material is ubiquitous in our everyday lives, due to it being cheap and convenient to produce as well as being highly durable and user friendly. However, once used and disposed, plastic lingers in the environment for too long and does not decompose.
As a result, the inherent problem of plastic pollution is a global crisis, with Sri Lanka generating approximately 7000 metric tons of mismanaged solid waste daily, with 6% accounting for plastic and polythene waste. Therefore, in the absence of a proper waste management system, non-recyclable plastic is dumped in large landfill sites. These sites are now exceeding their maximum capacity, and has led to pressing environmental and social concerns in the country.
As a first step to tackling this waste plastic problem, Cargills made a landmark decision to pave the Cargills Food City Carparks using Plastic Modified Asphalt Concrete, partnering with AGC Innovate.
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