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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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New building extension for William Angliss Institute @ SLIIT

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The William Angliss Institute @ SLIIT, a joint venture between William Angliss Institute, Melbourne and the SLIIT campus, Malabe, recently expanded their footprint in Sri Lanka by declaring open a new building extension with the participation of six Australian Board Members of the William Angliss Institute. Chairman and board members of the Sri Lankan franchise and other distinguished invitees too were present at the event. Judith Slevison – Board Secretary, William Angliss Institute, Australia declared open the building by cutting the ribbon, following which the distinguished guests were ushered to the Hot Kitchen, situated at the third floor of the institute where they lit the traditional oil lamp in accordance with the local customs.

Addressing the students at the Institute, Nicholas Hunt – Chief Executive Officer, William Angliss Institute @ SLIIT and Anuk Weerasinghe – Managing Director spoke of the exciting opportunities before them as tourism across the world rapidly recovers from the pandemic. The contributions of Chairman Errol Weerasinghe, Management and Staff of the William Angliss Institute @ SLIIT were also lauded by Hunt and Weerasinghe. Following the opening ceremony, the guests were taken to the second floor Patisserie Kitchen where they were served with Sri Lankan morning tea. The event concluded with a celebratory lunch for all guests, that followed a tour of the building. The new Building Extension contains two kitchens (Hot Kitchen and Patisserie) that are equipped with latest European culinary equipment.

Other facilities include three classrooms, larger food stores, and modern washrooms/ changerooms. The institute is currently putting the last touches to a Roof Top Training Bar/ Student Recreation area. The new facilities enhance the teaching capacity of this center dedicated for Hospitality, Culinary Arts, Tourism Studies, and Events, as well as the quality of student life, which in turn helps the institute reach its objective of creating career ready graduates.

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Dialog enables Digital Stock Trading on CSE via its Genie Fintech

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=First platform in Sri Lanka to enable end-to-end digital onboarding and trading

Sri Lanka’s premier fintech app, genie, powered by Dialog, has launched an innovative feature that allows its users to set up a Central Depository Systems (CDS) account, add money, place orders to buy and sell stocks on the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) and withdraw funds from their trading account maintained with the broker, and manage their stock portfolio, all from the convenience of their mobile phone. Softlogic Stockbrokers Pvt Ltd [SSB] is the first broker to partner with genie in providing these brokering services within the app.

Customers can trade in shares listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) by using the buying and selling features on the Genie app during market hours and also they can place orders during off-market hours. Any trades input to genie after the market is closed will be placed on the CSE order book on the next trading day. Genie provides customers with simple and easy input screens to place the orders to buy and sell stocks by entering the price and quantity of each trade.

“As Sri Lanka’s premier Fintech app, we are pleased to have contributed to the widening of the retail investor base in Sri Lanka and to enable investors to gain access to the stock market and start investing and trade in stocks.” Renuka Fernando, Group Chief Digital Services Officer of Dialog Axiata PLC said. “We are confident that as we widen access, there will be better understanding and participation in our Capital markets. We will continue to foster good investment habits and educate our customers with easy access to market information. Self-directed investing is the logical extension of the genie platform which aims to democratize financial products and wealth management”, she further stated.

“We are pleased to have partnered with genie, Sri Lanka’s premier Fintech app, where customers can experience end to end digital journey from opening a CDS account to trading. We look forward to work with Genie in expanding our reach in the digital economy of Sri Lanka, whilst providing the best customer experience.” Dihan Dedigama, Director / Chief Executive Officer, Softlogic Stockbrokers said.

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Unilever Sri Lanka wins Youth Focus Corporate Award

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Recognized for its commitment to empower Sri Lankan youth at the New Generation Awards 2022

Colombo, November 25, 2022: Unilever Sri Lanka was recently honoured with the Youth Focus Corporate Award at the New Generation Awards 2022, for making the biggest youth impact in the country during 2021-2022, as a corporate entity. The event was organised by the New Generation Chapter of Women in Management (WIM), in partnership with the National Youth Services Council in Sri Lanka. This was the only corporate award category presented at the event.

The New Generation Awards aim to identify, nurture and groom young, talented Sri Lankans and celebrate their contribution to the nation. The event comprised of over 50 Awards being presented across 20 award categories, including awards for schoolchildren, young entrepreneurs, schools, institutions and corporates.

Commenting on the award, Ananya Sabharwal, HR Director of Unilever Sri Lanka said “We are truly humbled to receive this award in recognition of our efforts to upskill the youth of the country. At Unilever, we offer flexible and short-term youth initiatives that cater to undergraduates. So, by the time they graduate, they have already gained vital skills and corporate exposure that are necessary to lay a strong foundation for their career. Our talent scouts who are our own employees collectively contribute to Unilever’s youth investment by volunteering their time to conduct campus sessions and share experiences with undergraduates. This kind of real-time industry experience sharing, really enables youth in deciding the kind of career they want to have”.

Unilever Sri Lanka has committed to empower and equip 100,000 Sri Lankan youth with essential skills by 2025 and has already enabled 30,000+ local youth to become more employable over the last five years through its campus engagements, strategic industry – academic student partnerships and career opportunities. Some of its youth initiatives include its SPARKS Student Ambassador Programme which invites undergraduates from top Sri Lankan universities to become Unilever ambassadors within their universities; the Unilever Challenge which is a real time brand centered case study competition that gives first-hand experience in working with leading brands and building disruptive thinking; the Unilever Leadership Internship Programme which offers internship opportunities to undergraduates across all functions; and many others. It is noteworthy to mention that this year, 48% of the company’s contractual employees were absorbed into the management cadre.

The company has also partnered with John Keels Holdings and London Stock Exchange to launch ‘Fast-Track’, a cross-industry Summer Internship for Sri Lankan students studying locally and abroad; and has partnered with CIMA, the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT), General Sir John Kotelawala Defense University (KDU), AIESEC Sri Lanka and Gavel clubs, to help support dynamic capability building in Sri Lankan youth. (Company news release)

About Unilever

Since its inception in 1938, Unilever Sri Lanka has established itself as one of the largest fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies in Sri Lanka. Its current product portfolio includes 30 market leading brands in categories such as Home Care, Personal Care, Beauty & Wellbeing and Nutrition. 96% of its products are manufactured locally, in compliance with the strictest manufacturing standards.Over the past 84 years, Unilever has been deeply rooted in Sri Lankan society, curating a landscape that preserves and nurtures the true Sri Lankan way of life. Enhancing the livelihoods of the communities it operates in, will continue to be at the forefront of this effort as it continues to set industry standards.

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