Sri Lanka’s economy has witnessed a steady revival in growth during the past few months, with the country venturing into new avenues of commodity and service monetization. Investment has evenly spread across technology, innovation and BPOs, but close inspection begs to raise the question: Is Sri Lanka putting enough effort to foster and realize its workforce potential?

Let the numbers do the talking. Of the total economically active population in Sri Lanka, women account for only 34%. What efforts are being made to promote enterprise and entrepreneurial opportunities to the female workforce of Sri Lanka?

Micro-level entrepreneurship by women has seen accelerated progression over the past few years to be recognized as small and medium-scaled enterprises (SMEs) today, but even these levels remain staggeringly low. According to reports, with 80% of Sri Lanka’s economy being driven by SMEs, only 10% consists of women entrepreneurs.
“In the Government sector we see females in many senior positions, most of them engaged insignificant roles such as policymaking,” states Chairperson of the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB), Mrs. Indira Malwatte. “Now we also have more female entrepreneurs taking on game-changing roles and getting into the crux of business. The EDB is actively promoting this movement.”

“We (EDB) are going to sign an agreement to launch a programme together with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for female entrepreneurs engaged in the ICT, fruit & vegetable, and food processing sectors. These are three areas we have identified where there’s a potential for women grow and benefit from assured revenue generation,” Mrs. Malwatte explains.

“I believe empowering women empowers the whole nation,” the Chairperson elaborates. She is also championing the She Trades Initiative in Sri Lanka, a web and mobile application launched by the International Trade Centre (ITC) that provides women entrepreneurs of the world to connect to markets across the globe. “Women can now share information about their companies and expand through the best networks. This platform enables women to find new business opportunities on a global scale.”
“We have decided to pick 10 successful entrepreneurs from each district in Sri Lanka who have showcased basic skills in business, to foster export opportunities for their businesses. Of the 10 nominees, a minimum two will be women, leaving room for the number to increase. With this, our target is to empower at least 50 female entrepreneurs over the course of the first round of grants.”