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Women Mean Business a Coalition for Action formed for holistic ‘system change’

By: Staff Writer

July 01, Colombo (LNW): Women engaged in the MSME sector together with the UNDP and other key stakeholders from the government, private sector, banking and finance sector, civil society organisations (CSOs), academia has embarked on a mission  to set up and sustain a coalition dedicated to implementing a holistic ‘system change’ approach.

The aim is to understand and take action on what it takes to transform the lives of women in the sector, their communities and the country as a whole

The launch of “Women Mean Business: A Coalition for Action” targets to address the challenges faced by micro, small, and medium women entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka, promoting inclusive growth.

This coalition includes various stakeholders such as entrepreneur networks, manufacturing organizations, business development service providers, trade unions, ministries, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, financial institutions, CSOs/NGOs, development partners, academia, policymakers, media, IT support institutions, steering committees, and other coalitions.

Their collective goal is to find practical, strategic, and sustainable solutions to improve women’s access to finance and recognize their contributions to the economy.

The coalition facilitates inter-agency and interdisciplinary coordination and collaboration, creating opportunities to challenge systemic discrimination against women-led MSMEs, particularly in accessing financial resources

At the launch event, women entrepreneurs from various provinces shared their experiences and views on accessing financial products and services.

The dialogue highlighted the operational challenges of financial institutions in providing services to MSMEs and explored ways to create an inclusive and equitable financial system.

Despite a female literacy rate of 95%, only 25% of entrepreneurs in the MSME sector are women, and only 32% of women are in the labor force.

Women also face higher unemployment rates and spend considerable time on unpaid housework and care work. Moreover, only 16% of privately owned land is owned by women, and 20.4% of women have experienced intimate partner violence.

Addressing these systemic issues requires a cohesive ecosystem, which has been lacking due to fragmented efforts by various entities.

The coalition aims to create a resilient system that works for women and can withstand external risks, including those induced by climate change.

The transformation must occur piece by piece, addressing the elements that prevent equitable access to finance for women in the MSME sector. This approach aims to create a domino effect, enabling women to sustain their businesses and contribute to long-term prosperity.

Chrysalis CEO Ashika Gunasena emphasized the organization’s commitment to inclusive growth by addressing the challenges faced by marginalized women and youth.

Chrysalis, along with government, private sector, funders, civil society, and academia partners, seeks to ensure meaningful participation of women and youth in Sri Lanka’s inclusive growth. UNDP, a strategic partner in this initiative, recognizes that economic independence is crucial for gender equality. UNDP Resident Representative Azusa Kubota highlighted the importance of addressing the root causes of discrimination based on various intersecting identities.

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