Over 400 young women from vulnerable communities in Jaffna and Kilinochchi are being empowered with entrepreneurial skills to enable them to overcome poverty and build sustainable livelihoods under a unique initiative undertaken by Sarvodaya and RYTHM Foundation.
RYTHM Foundation, the social impact arm of the QI Group, focuses its efforts in the areas of education for all, gender equality and sustainable community development, in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Headquartered in Hong Kong, the foundation operates in several countries to make a difference around the world, which includes a strong presence in Sri Lanka.
Since 2018, the foundation has collaborated with various local organisations around the country to facilitate sustainable development in underserved communities. This includes creating employment opportunities through a social enterprise project in the northern province, as well as promoting the social inclusion of persons with special needs in the Kandy district.
Sri Lanka holds a special place in the heart of the foundation as the birthplace of its chairperson, Umayal Eswaran. Having grown up in Colombo with altruistic parents who had an open-door policy of extending help to anyone who required it, Umayal has always had an innate sense of philanthropy that fuels her passion to uplift others. Thus, the principle the foundation was built upon – Raise Yourself To Help Mankind – and its ongoing quest to lend support to the most vulnerable segments of communities around the world.
“I believe it should be a second nature for humanity to reach out and help those who are in need, weak or vulnerable. When we have the capacity and resources to uplift struggling communities, we must do everything in our power to do so. It is our duty as citizens of the world. I am particularly grateful to be able to give back to the nation that raised and nourished me in my youth with the work that we have been doing through RYTHM Foundation,” said Umayal.
The current project with one of RYTHM’s earliest on-the-ground partners, Sarvodaya, kicked off in 2019 and despite COVID-19 related snags, hopes to continue until its completion this year. Courses in tailoring, beauty culture, mobile repairing, motor mechanics, craft, baking, cake decorating, food processing and many more are offered to young women from economically challenged circumstances to build their life skills under the programme.
It also addresses a lack of access to markets, technology and financial resources and provides training in leadership, entrepreneurship and small business management skills including workshops on engaging with microfinance institutions and banks.
Young women who have consistently faced challenges such as poverty, unemployment, and lack of skills in communities that are mostly made up of female-headed households, are often exposed to gender-based violence and often have to give up their higher education aspirations. Yet, the project has given them confidence and the ability to rise above their circumstances.
Courageous and talented participants such as Siyanuka from Thellipala who learnt business skills in manufacturing leather goods under the initiative, are thriving with their self-employment ventures.
“My family was not very supportive at the start but with the aid from Sarvodaya & RYTHM, I was able to start my leather products business and build a network of clients with my father’s support too” she says.
K. Sayanthini from Visuvamadu East is yet another young woman who was trained as a beautician under the programme. Today, she has built a successful beauty business and provides her services to her community.
These women and many others have had their livelihood potential enhanced while entire communities have benefitted from the project. RYTHM Foundation & Sarvodaya are pleased to have empowered these women economically to transform their lives through this partnership. The foundation hopes to continue working with vulnerable communities in Sri Lanka through collaboration with other grass root level partners such as Sarvodaya.