The untimely demise of Shirani’s husband weighed heavily upon her but she did not have time to grieve her loss as the burden of her family’s well-being was now her lot. For 7 long years, Shirani has borne the weight as her family’s breadwinner, providing for the needs of her two children, her elderly parents and an uncle who looks to her for support. For years, she worked as a daily-paid labourer in the neighbouring tea estates in Ratnapura. Shirani once tried to earn a living as a seamstress but she soon realised that the little shop she set up to sell her products would not be a successful venture. Her eldest, a daughter, was preparing for her Advanced Level examination while her son too was a young student. Shirani worried that she would be unable to provide for them and the stresses of her work and responsibilities would often overwhelm her. Her main respite was the time she spent in her garden; tending to her plants and forgetting her worries and qualms for a while.
Shirani was truly a natural horticulturist and her plants thrived under her care. As her former means of employment and her enterprise in dress-making failed her, Shirani realised that she could earn a living by propagating and selling plants if she honed her skill and knowledge in horticulture. It was at this time that Shirani came to know of the assistance provided by LEADS for group livelihood initiatives. The organisation had a presence in her village of Devipahala through its work in creating awareness on child protection and strengthening village committees to safeguard children. Shirani joined with a few neighbours and applied for a livelihood grant with the hope of directing the financial support they receive to develop her home-based enterprise together with her new partners.
“I was finding it difficult to manage without a greenhouse to rear the plants in” explains Shirani. “During the day, I had to ensure that the plants will not receive too much sunlight and it was difficult to protect the plants from insects and animals that attack them at night time.” The financial assistance Shirani received gave her the resources needed to purchase the greenhouse and invest further in her new partnership enterprise in selling plants. “Thanks to the greenhouse, the plants are quite healthy and they receive the right amount of sunlight. We are now registered with the local floral committee and receive invitations to take part in floral exhibitions.” Shirani’s monthly income from the sale of plants has increased from LKR 1,000 to LKR 20,000 and the additional income is now used to pay for her children’s tuition in English and Mathematics. The plants grown by Shirani and her friends have such a high demand that they now seek to double their income by introducing a nursery for tea saplings. “Our teamwork is a great support for each of us and as we don’t have to go far from home, we can also look to the needs of our children” beams Shirani.