Rice to Riches
This is a livelihood program through micro business development aimed at providing a daily income for women in Manthai West Division in Mannar District. It targets vulnerable women - both war widows and returned internally displaced persons (IDPs) - across three villages where relations between Catholics, Muslims and Hindus are strained.
A milling operation (rice, rice flour, curry, chilli powders) will provide a daily income for women, helping them back on their feet. Bridging Lanka has provided a loan to build the rice mill and purchase machinery.
Since working closely with the established mechanisms of government - the Manthai West District Secretary and the relevant Grama Niladharis (village heads) - and transitioning from a social enterprise model with a business edge to a business model with a social edge, the project has progressed at a great pace. Instead of a cooperative model, Bridging Lanka openly canvassed for one person to be the mill owner who would subsequently employ a workforce.
The experienced rice mill owner has demonstrated great commitment to his business and has been responsible for driving the rapid and quality building construction process, working in cooperation with the committee and Bridging Lanka.
The iPledg! crowd-funding campaign raised AU$6,000 for the project, leaving an AU$7,500 shortfall. Sincere thanks to Luke Chandler who gave generously to the project and helped us mount the online campaign.
Safana is a seasoned seamstress with five years’ experience and follows in her mother’s footsteps. She worked hard for someone else stitching up ladies clothing like salwar kameez, kurtas and sari blouses on an order basis and earning a mere Rs 5,000 per month.
Bridging Lanka has provided her with a second-hand electric machine and if her new venture of working for herself proves promising, we will purchase a new machine for her. Our staff are helping her develop a business plan and financial reporting system.
2022 In late 2011, Diaspora Lanka and the Urban Council Mannar (UC) instigated a community visioning program, Mannarin Marumalarchi (the renaissance of Mannar) to identify a people-centred plan for Mannar City for the next ten years. The Women & Community group is one of six subcommittees working towards the ten-year vision.
Many participants wanted to see community service programs for the betterment of the not so well off, particularly for the elderly, war widows, orphans and the disabled. They also bemoaned the rapid disintegration of the moral fabric of their society since the end of the war, witnessing the rise of domestic violence, teenage pregnancy, child sexual abuse, the abuse of war widows and alcohol and drug dependency.
More specific women’s issues raised included the need for self-employment services, particularly livelihoods for war widows, exploration of income generation initiatives in new untapped fields and community awareness programs focused on the abuse of women and children.