Shanthi and several other females in her community in Kahahengama, Kuruwita gather once a week under the shade of trees in a neighbour’s garden. Unlike any other neighbourhood gathering, the ladies of this community attend this weekly meeting to discuss their business enterprises and how they can further develop these ventures. Even though most of these ladies are wives, mothers and those who tend to their daily household chores, they are also now equipped to be entrepreneurs who make an invaluable contribution towards their family’s income.
LEADS works closely with this community since November, 2019 in a bid to equip community leaders to redress the socio-economic issues faced by this economically backward community. As female entrepreneurship does not receive much support and recognition in rural communities, LEADS encouraged women in this village and three other communities in the Ratnapura District to form self-help groups where they gather to share their skills, technical knowledge and resources while encouraging one another in their business ventures. Since these self-help groups were formed in 2019, LEADS officers would visit the weekly meetings and provide these budding entrepreneurs with knowledge on how to manage their businesses, save their earnings and attend to administrative tasks.
Shanthi and her friends already play an impressive role in their families. Their days are long because of the roles traditionally-attributed to the mother and housewife of rural villages like Kahahengama. However, they are also committed towards improving the living standards of their families by contributing to their household income. These ladies keep aside their household responsibilities for a few hours every week and even bring their toddlers along with them to the meetings because of the value they attribute to this initiative. Even though this self-help group is still in its formative stage, the members are already experiencing progress in their business ventures. “I am delighted because I can see an improvement in the living standards of our group members” expresses Shanthi. “After we formed this self-help group, we are saving money and improving our livelihoods because we now have access to small loans at no interest. We also have our own system of sharing resources on a rotation basis among the group members.” It is hoped that this self-help group will encourage Shanthi and her neighbours to become leaders in their community and be catalysts of sustainable economic growth who create opportunities for development within their village.