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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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Webinar on ‘Security of Information Assets: What the Board Needs to Know’

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The Sri Lanka Institute of Directors (SLID) together with EY organized a webinar, moderated by Manil Jayasinghe-Partner, EY on “Security of Information Assets: What the Board Needs to Know” recently to update the knowledge and understanding of Board members on the increasing cyber security risks and threats to information assets of an organization brought about by the rapid wave of digitalization and resulting changes in the way organizations work in response to the on-going pandemic.

The webinar also discussed strategies and best practices on how best to mitigate these risks in securing information assets while ensuring business continuity, loss minimization and quick, safe recovery in the event of a breach. The keynote address was delivered by Dileepa Lathsara-CEO, TechCert and the panel comprised of eminent tech and business leaders Madu Ratnayake-Executive Vice President, CIO/GM Virtusa and D. Soosaipillai-INED of Listed Companies.

“It is important to define what information assets are so that security can be provided to those assets. Contrary to the misconception that information assets are only the application systems or the systems where staff work on and the data that resides on those systems, information assets include supporting infrastructure such as switches, patch panels, routers, servers and all other equipment, and application systems including confidential corporate information in those systems. It is also important to identify where corporate information is stored and who has access to it” said Dileepa Lathsara-CEO, TechCert.

“Boards should get involved in handling cyber security risk by firstly setting a security tone for the organization so that everyone takes security seriously and also ensure that the required resources are made available. Boards can focus on the actual requirements of information security by adopting and adhering to security frameworks, standards, acts and directives such as NIST and ISO27000 series, PCI-DSS rather than having the IT security team re-invent the wheel” he added.

He further stated that cyber security should be incorporated into the digital transformation chain and should not be a mere afterthought to be plugged in at the end. Cyber accountability is also important in that it is the organization’s ability to demonstrate that they have good cyber hygiene to ensure, in case of an eventual attack, the ability to track back to a unique event/person or group responsible with admissible evidence which also aids in quick rectification and recovery. Dileepa also emphasized that it is important to make informed and optimal investments in cyber security mitigation which can be calculated preferably as Annualized Loss Expectancy (ALE) as against ROI since security is about loss prevention and not about earnings where ALE is calculated as the cost of a security incident x chance that the incident will occur in a year.

Panelist Madu Ratnayake said that it is essential and fundamental to have the right people in the security team led by a CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) and that cyber security is a journey and not a destination as security is evolving. The Boards should comprise of members who have expertise on security given that most companies are going digital and the risk becomes crucial.

Panelist D. Soosaipillai said that the first thing is to find a security standard to be adopted in the organization without which there will be limitless spending on security without knowing what the benefits are. The organization should have a security vertical such as a CISO or IT Security, which is where the Boards will look at to establish ownership for IT security. He also suggested that Board does regular, if not half yearly Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT) by external 3rd parties into the systems/security matrix of the organization.

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Sampath Bank further simplifies cash management for businesses with launch of Visa Business Debit Card

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Sampath Bank recently announced the launch of Sri Lanka’s first Visa powered business debit card linked to a corporate account – the Sampath Bank Visa Business Debit Card – to help businesses of all sizes gain more control over their expenses.

The Bank’s business customers will now be able to move away from cash and provide separate debit cards to their employees for day-to-day expenditure. They can set monthly transaction limits to each individual card and link the cards to their preferred company account with Sampath Bank. The chosen account will be directly debited each time an employee makes a payment using the card. Businesses can consolidate all spending information using the detailed electronic reports it offers and simplify their payments, bookkeeping, reporting and monitoring processes.

Offering greater convenience and security, this new business debit card from Sampath Bank is set to encourage more businesses to go digital with their expenses, in line with the government and the Central Bank of Sri Lanka’s efforts to drive the adoption of cashless payments in the country.

Commenting on this, Tharaka Ranwala, Senior Deputy General Manager – Operations and Group Chief Marketing Officer, Sampath Bank PLC, said, “We are delighted to help businesses of all sizes go digital with their daily expenses with the launch of the Sampath Bank Visa Business Debit Card. Moving away from cumbersome cash transactions, businesses can now provide staff members with individual debit cards to be used for company expenses. The cards are linked to the customers’ preferred Sampath Bank accounts which get debited every time a transaction is made using these cards. We look forward to seeing our business customers experience the convenience and security offered by this solution to simplify their cash flow management as well as accounting, reporting and monitoring.”

 

 

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CSE indices dip below average turnover

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne 

CSE saw the bear run persist for the third consecutive day with both indices dipping sharply below average turnover. The market was negative and at one point it declined to 200 points and subsequently started recovering  but not up to a steady level, stock market analysts said.

The market saw heavy foreign selling worth Rs. 700 million, up from Rs. 53.5 million, thereby pushing the year-to-date figure up. Foreigners continue to exit from some blue chip companies.

As result, both indices moved downwards. All Share Price Index went down by 131.94 points and S and P SL20 went down by 56.09 points. Turnover stood at Rs. 2.43 billion with a single crossing. The crossing was reported in Lion Brewery, which crossed 673,000 shares to the tune of Rs. 363 million, its shares traded at Rs. 540.

In the retail market five companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, Vallibel One Rs 290 (5.7 million shares traded), LOLC Rs. 243 million (736,000 shares traded), Expolanka Rs. 197 million (4.4 million shares traded), Browns Investment Rs. 170 million (1.1 million shares traded) and Dipped Products Rs. 127 million (2.9 million shares traded). During the day 141 million share volumes changed hands 23199 transactions.

During the day, top turnover companies, LOLC,  JKH, Browns Investments, Melstacorp and Expolnka contributed negatively to the Index. LOLC  being one of the top listed companies in the stock market  contributed 21 negative points to the All Share Price Index.  Other companies were, JKH 7 negative points, Browns, Melstacorp and Expolanka contributed six negative points each during the day.

It is said that CTC and Carsons Cumberbatch contributed positively to the All Share Price Index.  CTC contributed the highest number of points to the Index which was 10 points.

It is said that even though the market’s recent downward trend is disappointing, it is believed that the bourse will gradually reverse course in line with the expectation of an upward biased long term trajectory.’Consequently, investors are advised to take advantage of the current weakness and focus on accumulating fundamentally robust and liquid stocks in high growth sectors with a long term investment horizon, stock brokers said. 

Sri Lanka’s rupee opened weaker at 195/199 levels to the US dollar in the one-week forwards market on Wednesday while bond yields were slightly up, dealers said. The rupee last closed in the one- week forward market at 196.50/197.50 to the dollar on Tuesday.

 

 

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