March 8, 2021 — Twenty women from Matara celebrated International Women’s Day today by participating in an innovative entrepreneurship training program supported by the U.S. government in partnership with Sri Lanka’s Department of Samurdhi Development. Representatives from the U.S. and Sri Lankan governments welcomed the women and announced the expansion of the program to an additional 7,500 participants in six districts in Sri Lanka.
“On International Women’s Day and every day, we celebrate the inspirational Sri Lankan women who are forging their own paths to success,” said Reed Aeschliman, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director for Sri Lanka and Maldives. “The American people are proud to support thousands of Sri Lankan women as they establish microenterprises, improve their livelihoods, and contribute to the economy.”
The U.S. government-sponsored activity builds entrepreneurship skills among rural women and youth to help them become financially independent micro-entrepreneurs. Through a pilot project with the Department of Samurdhi, USAID provided training for 1,250 people in Matara that resulted in the establishment of 410 businesses — 343 of which are women-owned. Phase two of the project will provide training for another 1,500 women in Matara and will be rolled out to 6,000 trainees in five additional districts. The project, called YouLead, will also launch free online entrepreneurship training modules that are accessible to anyone with entrepreneurship aspirations via www.youlead.lk.
“We are pleased to continue our partnership with USAID’s YouLead project to build the capacity of women entrepreneurs in rural communities,” said Minister Shehan Semasinghe, State Minister for Samurdhi. “This partnership has proven highly effective and will empower women across the country over the next two years through training workshops. It will increase female participation in our economy.”
At the kickoff event today, the participants exchanged ideas with successful women entrepreneurs, including keynote speaker Mrs. Janaki Kathiriarachchi, Chairman of Ranbath Organic Food and Catering Services (Pvt) Ltd., who spoke of her journey to success. The event, attended by Mr. R.P.B. Thilakasiri, Director General, Department of Samurdhi Development and Ms. Deepika Gunarathne, Division Secretary, also showcased four video case studies on local entrepreneurs and will be releasing twelve more case studies in March.
Through its YouLead program, USAID improves vocational education, builds a more skilled workforce, and links youth to productive careers. It’s one component of the longstanding partnership between the American and Sri Lankan people to support self-reliance, strengthen stability, and promote economic growth. USAID’s program in Sri Lanka, totaling more than 350 billion Sri Lankan rupees since 1956, promotes a healthy, educated, and employed population. To find out more about USAID’s work, please see usaid.gov/sri-lanka.