Standard Chartered is collaborating with global multi-dimensional women’s fund, Women Win, through their NGO partner in Sri Lanka, SERVE, to launch ‘Shaktheen’ – a women empowerment programme aimed to revive the livelihoods of working women in Sri Lanka. A donation of $209,158 from the Standard Chartered Foundation will fund the programme over a 24-month period and will directly benefit 500 women who operate in the informal sector to overcome the strains caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The project was ceremoniously launched at a special event organised by SERVE on the 9th of March, in lieu of the International Women’s Day.
More than one third of working women in Sri Lanka are employed in the informal economy. Due to the many lockdowns, they have faced reduced mobility and elimination of opportunities to sell products and provide services and therefore, lost business and income that had supported the wellbeing of their families. The ‘Shaktheen’ programme will empower working women across two towns in the Western Province, Moratuwa and Panadura, through Self-Help Groups (SHGs), a popular regional approach to financial access, collective problem solving and action for women.
The programme will ensure increased loan capital available for business start-ups, as well as access to vocational training and business skills development opportunities for women to improve their businesses or gain new income. While increasing the financial resilience of the current SHG members and encouraging them to bring the next generation of women into its programme, ‘Shaktheen’ will also provide psychosocial wellbeing support to the 500 members.
Anuk De Silva, Head of Corporate Affairs, Brand & Marketing, Standard Chartered Sri Lanka commented, “Standard Chartered believes in a culture of empowerment within our Bank and by understanding the importance we have now extended support to our communities, to adapt and exist within the post COVID-19 context. We believe the ‘Shaktheen’ project will not only help its beneficiaries to be financially independent, but will also help the economy by creating female entrepreneurs who are self-sufficient. We look forward to closely work with SERVE with the aim of serving our communities through education, awareness, providing seed capital and psychological well-being support coupled with knowledge resources through our own staff on financial literacy.”
Based on the SERVE model, the women recruited into new SHGs will be trained to prevent, identify and respond to instances of gender-based violence as well as know critical information about women’s rights and laws. This is a key programmatic component as research shows, that even where opportunities for earning are available, there are a wide array of factors that determine whether women can find, pursue and use these. Freedom from violence in all its forms and access to rights ensures that women are physically and mentally able to pursue economic opportunities. Additionally, of the 500 women in the ‘Shaktheen’ programme, 200 will receive business support and community mentoring and 50 high potential members will qualify to participate in advanced courses in business to further enhance their endeavours.
Speaking about the partnership, Sanjeeva de Mel, Executive Director of SERVE, said, “We sincerely thank the Standard Chartered Foundation for partnering with SERVE through the ‘Futuremakers’ initiative for girls and women empowerment. The ‘Shaktheen’ project targets 500 women from low-income groups of Moratuwa and Panadura. The project aims at enhancing the capacity of its beneficiaries economically, socially as well as broaden their leadership skills through the ‘Self Help Group Approach’. We are grateful to Standard Chartered for their coordination and support in making this initiative a reality.”
SERVE has also been implementing a sport and activity-based girl empowerment programme with the support of Standard Chartered, in partnership with Women Win, since December 2017 with the aim of empowering the Girl Child by providing education on health, managing finances and self-acceptance.