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One by One: Empowering Women in Sri Lanka


Radha, a war victim of the 30-year Civil war in Sri Lanka which ended in 2009, is a disabled mother with two young children, living in a remote hill country town. She is an example of a mother and entrepreneur who is building a generation that can stay out of poverty.

Despite her disability and the other challenges she faces daily, Radha is a persevering person and learned to knit and crochet. She supported her family by knitting and crochet work, producing caps and shawls which are in demand in the hill country. However, overcoming discouragement in these endeavors was a challenge since there was no one to encourage, train, and mentor her. Her community had high unemployment and underemployment rates which were difficult to overcome.

Radha met Jennifer, the director of our partner institution Joseph’s Foundation, when attending a training program for vulnerable women entrepreneurs who are persisting in the face of multiple challenges but need support and resources to step out of their limitations. 

Being a women entrepreneur herself Jennifer empathizes with the challenges that these women face.  After the training program was completed, Jennifer continued to stay in touch with Radha and several of these women, helping them with marketing and technical advice. In March 2021, through a donation sourced by Leadership in Action, Jennifer was able to purchase and donate a small quantity of tools and materials to Radha to help expand her knitting and crocheting business. 

 Jennifer continued to share information with Radha over the telephone on new products and designs. Since Radha is illiterate, Jennifer shares photographs and drawings with her. Even this is a challenge since Radha has access to a basic analogue phone. Despite this Jennifer has been able to help Radha design and create new items--including jewelry! She also supports her by promoting Radha’s products and arranging for delivery and sale. 

The donation of materials combined with the coaching and support by Jennifer helped a determined young mother take several steps forward on her journey out of poverty. 

Radha is now engaged in many business activities in addition to crocheting. She is preparing food parcels and sweets and selling them, while planning to have her own food cart soon.  She also purchases ladies’ clothes in bulk and resells them in the markets of the nearby towns. When asked how she is managing to sell ladies’ garment when there are already many big stores nearby, her answer was demonstrated a clear understanding of her target market: she says that most of the estate girls and ladies are shy to buy certain garments in a big store or from the street vendors. She targets these ladies directly and is successfully running the business by focusing on selected ladies’ garments only. Because of these multiple streams of income, she is able to send her children to a private school!

Radha is also helping young girls without jobs by training them to be salespeople. She empowers these young girls by encouraging them and by conducting classes on how to make crochet products.

When one woman was given access to partnerships, training, seed capital, mentoring, subject matter expertise, and markets, an entire community was impacted: multiple revenue streams were created, children were fed and schooled, and other women in the community were empowered, thus building a generation that is equipped to stay out of poverty.