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Female-heads of households see their struggles compounded by pandemic

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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.



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JKH records EBITDA growth of  9% to Rs.10.41 billion in Q3

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Summarised below are the key operational and financial highlights of our performance during the quarter under review:

Group EBITDA recorded an improvement to Rs.10.41 billion during the quarter under review, which is an increase of 9 per cent against the comparative period of last year [2021/22 Q3: Rs.9.53 billion]. Excluding the impact of a one-off deferred tax charge at South Asia Gateway Terminals on account of the significant change in income tax rates, Group EBITDA increased by 17 per cent to Rs.11.17 billion in the third quarter of the financial year 2022/23.

Apart from the Consumer Foods and Property industry groups, the Group’s businesses recorded growth in EBITDA compared to the third quarter of the previous year.

The Transportation industry group recorded an increase in profitability due to its USD denominated revenue streams and resultant translation gains due to the depreciation of the Rupee as compared against the previous year.

Krishan Balendra Chairperson JKH

The groundwork on the West Container Terminal (WCT-1) at the Port of Colombo is progressing well with the dredging works being rapidly completed. The contract for the quay wall construction, a significant component of the overall construction works, was awarded in October 2022. Overall timelines for the project remain as originally envisaged.

The Leisure industry group recorded a strong performance driven by the Maldivian Resorts and Colombo Hotels segments.

The Supermarket business recorded an EBITDA growth of 26 per cent to Rs.1.99 billion due to an increase in same store sales driven by a combination of higher customer footfall and basket values due to high inflation. The overall profitability in the Retail industry group was impacted by a substantial decline in the EBITDA of the Office Automation business compared to the third quarter of the previous year.

Profitability in the Consumer Foods businesses were impacted by volume declines reflective of dampened consumer sentiments, and lower margins, although margin pressure is expected to ease off from the fourth quarter of 2022/23 onwards.

The Property industry group recorded a decline in profitability as the third quarter of the previous year included revenue and profit recognition from the handover of the residential apartments and commercial office floors at ‘Cinnamon Life’. The recognition of revenue of all units sold at ‘Cinnamon Life’ up to 31 March 2022 was recorded across 2021/22.

The Insurance business recorded a growth in the life insurance surplus and gross written premiums whilst Nations Trust Bank recorded an increase in net interest margins and a reduction in costs.

The Group’s carbon footprint per million rupees of revenue decreased by 25 per cent to 0.38 MT while the water withdrawal per million rupees of revenue decreased by 17 per cent to 7.56 cubic meters.

Initiatives under ‘ONE JKH’, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) brand of the John Keells Group, included a perception survey to better understand employee awareness and sentiment towards increasing career opportunities for persons with disabilities.

Cognizant of the multiple economic hardships faced by the people of the country, and in recognition of the Group’s role as a leading responsible corporate citizen, the Group continued its multipronged crisis response programme with a particular focus in the areas of food security, education and nutrition among vulnerable segments such as school children.

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CSE positively impacted by US ambassador’s comments on bail-out

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By Hiran H. Senewiratne

CSE share trading kicked off on a positive note yesterday following US ambassador Julie Chung’s positive comments on the IMF bailout to foreign media and the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland arriving in Sri Lanka last morning, stock market analysts said.

The market gained in mid-day trade yesterday, mainly pushed up by banking and financial sectors, brokers said. As a result, both indices moved upwards. The All- Share Price Index went up by 84.96 points and S and P SL20 rose by 45.29 points.

Turnover amounted to Rs 1.5 billion without any crossings. The reason for investor sentiment to move up was because it was clear that the US seems to be pushing creditors to go for debt restructuring to obtain the IMF bailout for Sri Lanka, analysts said.

In the retail market seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were; JKH Rs 239 million (1.7 million shares traded), Softlogic Life Insurance Rs 175 million (1.4 million shares traded), Lanka IOC Rs 164 million (805,000 shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 154 million (806,000 shares traded), Softlogic Capital Rs 125 million (7.8 million shares traded), Tokyo Cement (Non -Voting) Rs 46.5 million (1.5 million shares traded) and Lanka Tiles Rs 46.4 million (one million shares traded).

It said high net worth and institutional investor participation was noted in John Keells Holdings, Lanka IOC and Lanka Wall Tiles. Mixed interest was observed in Softlogic Life Insurance, Expolanka Holdings and Chevron Lubricants, while retail interest was noted in LOLC Finance, Softlogic Capital and Browns Investments.

The Capital Goods sector was the top contributor to the market turnover (due to JKH), while the sector index lost 1.06 per cent. The share price of JKH recorded a loss of 50 cents to settle at Rs. 139.50.

The Insurance sector was the second highest contributor to the market turnover (due to Softlogic Life Insurance) while the sector index increased by 1.31%. The share price of Softlogic Life Insurance increased by Rs. 2 to close at Rs. 120.50.

Lanka IOC, Softlogic Capital and LOLC Finance were also included among the top turnover contributors. The share price of Lanka IOC lost Rs. 2 to close at Rs. 206.25. The share price of Softlogic Capital moved up by 20 cents to close at Rs. 15.90. The share price of LOLC Finance closed flat at Rs. 6.90.

“We are seeing a lot of activity today, mostly retail interest led by the life insurance companies like Softlogic life and Softlogic Capital, a market analyst said. “Foreign buying was there in the last few days as well”. During the day 60.2 million share volumes changed hands in 14000 transactions.

It is said that Colombo City Hotel subdivided its shares by one share into 20 ordinary shares for its shareholders.

The stock market ended the first month of the New Year with a gain of over 4 per cent, largely influenced by strong momentum earlier on as investor sentiment of late has been bearish.

January saw the benchmark ASPI gain by 4.4 per cent and the active S&P SL20 Index by 5 per cent. Daily turnover averaged Rs. 1.86 billion, according sources said.

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Dr. Rasarie Wimalana obtains Global Best Results at the International Board of Lifestyle Medicine Examination – 2022

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Adding a new dimension to the field of Lifestyle Medicine –

A young Sri Lankan professional has brought honour and recognition to Sri Lanka by achieving world class results in a highly standardized examination held globally for the increasingly popular specialty of Lifestyle Medicine.

Dr. Rasarie Wimalana showcased Sri Lanka internationally by obtaining Global Best results

at the acclaimed International Board of Lifestyle Medicine (IBLM) Examination held in December 2022. The exams drew applications from over 1400 licensed physicians and allied post graduate health professionals representing multiple countries including the United Kingdom and the United States.

The IBLM is a global benchmark that sets and upholds strict criteria for assessment and evaluation of physicians and health professionals in Lifestyle Medicine worldwide. Being certified as an IBLM diplomate translates to possessing specialized knowledge in lifestyle medicine which broadens the application of sustainable treatment of non-communicable diseases.

As the most prestigious and largest lifestyle medicine platform in the world, The American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) states, therapeutic lifestyle interventions can be used as a primary modality to treat chronic conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and obesity and when used intensively by certified clinicians, it can often reverse chronic disease. The ACLM states that the six pillars of lifestyle medicine—a whole-food, plant-predominant eating pattern, physical activity, restorative sleep, stress management, avoidance of risky substances and positive social connections—also ensure effective prevention of chronic conditions and can help an individual optimize lifestyle changes needed to develop a holistic approach to over-all wellbeing.

Dr Rasarie who calls both Musaeus College and Visakha Vidyalaya her alma maters, obtained her MBBS from Manipal College of Medical Sciences in Nepal before working in both state and private sector institutions in Sri Lanka. She is currently completing her Master’s in Health Psychology at the University of West London.

As an intensive care doctor of five years, she first handedly witnessed the catastrophic consequences of uncontrolled non communicable disease complications and their tragic effects on her patients and family members. Now, as a newly certified clinician in lifestyle medicine, she believes that although the awareness of Lifestyle Medicine is low in Sri Lanka, there is tremendous potential for the sector to expand. With greater awareness and growing interest, she believes that more and more people can make best use of it to improve their chronic conditions.

While working with The Sri Lankan Society of Lifestyle Medicine (SLSLM) towards their vision of transforming Sri Lanka through a sustainable healthcare system with lifestyle medicine at the core, she says that there is no better opportunity than now to incorporate holistic wellness into our lives with the adaptation of lifestyle medicine.

“Lifestyle medicine can achieve a powerful impact through providing a personalized medical service in clinical practice while also reiterating the importance of public health, research and education. It could bring together medicine and allied health sciences to work together towards minimizing the devastating impact of non-communicable disease burden in Sri Lanka.” She says in conclusion.

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