Small to large enterprises worldwide are being disrupted and facing many challenges in the face of COVID pandemic. Thus, it seems timely to highlight the strengths of women who dream of rebuilding and regaining control of their lives even during a crisis like COVID.
41-year-old Kosala is a mother of a 14-year-old daughter and an entrepreneur, who proudly speaks about her journey.
“My husband went abroad a year ago and came back to Sri Lanka very recently and he’s still in a quarantine center. I am proud to say that I have not received any money from him since last February, but we live our normal lives without any kind of support from anybody. The main reason for this is I planned everything in our lives to be able to face any challenges in the future”.
In Sri Lanka, before or after marriage, many women sacrifice their talents and interests for their families and children. It was not any different for Kosala, who married at the age of 26 and then resigned from her job as an assistant accountant at the request of her husband. Her daughter was born a year later, and her life was restricted, doing her housework as a traditional housewife. However, it is impossible to limit the capacities and creativity of anyone who is self-determined. Kosala is also a strong woman who dreamt of living as an independent woman.
Kosala spent her free time with her little daughter and began to produce various crafts especially in fabric painting for the use of her home and later for friends and relatives. Her efforts expanded to a small-scale garment factory within five years; by then she employed 15 young girls in her business. She received good support from her husband after he realized about her skills and talents. She named her business “Himali Creations”, and she was able to supply ladies’ garments to the market.
It is inevitable that small businesses face many challenges at their initial stages, especially the tax policies and labor laws that are unbearable for the small-scale businesses at the beginning. Kosala also had to face such problems and because of this she had to shut down her business, in the end she was only left with the machines she invested in.
Persistence and self-confidence are the most important strengths of an entrepreneur. Kosala had the energy, courage and foresight to start another business. As a very good networker, she has very good relationships with state and non-state business development service providers. Through these service providers and the relationship she built with them, she was able to get different training as well as marketing opportunities. Clever entrepreneurs never miss the opportunities around them, Kosala also did not missed whatever new information she obtained from her network.
“I got to know about the Women Development Centre (WDC) and its Sthree social enterprise when I was participating at a buyers and sellers meeting organized by the Export Development Board (EDB). I heard someone talking about the services available at Sthree and the location of it. I did not waste my time and on that same day I went to the Sthree shop with the soft toys samples which I brought for the meeting. The staff at Sthree was friendly, they gave positive feedback for my products and asked me to come back with more items. It was the first time I supplied soft toys for a shop. Sthree also invited me to participate in training programs conducted at WDC. First, I received entrepreneurship skills development training from WDC which helped me to further strengthen my entrepreneurial skills. One month after my first soft toys order I received Rs. 2000/=. It was big for me as I realized that my soft toys had a market. Then I increased the number of items and the designs supplied to the Sthree. Once the Sthree started the Café many foreign customers visited Sthree so that, until lockdown for COVID epidemic in March 2020 I was able to earn an average income of Rs. 15,000 – 20,000 per month from Sthree”.
Under the women economic empowerment project implemented supported by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), WDC organized many training programs and Kosala participated in the programs conducted in Kandy District. She was elected as the first president of Women Entrepreneurs Association established under the COL supported project. She is a good leader and supported and advised other members to increase their business. Kosala participated in the online business development training for the members (conducted by Thilini Rathnayake, a graduate from COL’s App development training in 2018). Together with 10 members Kosala established an online platform for selling their products. The platform is called https://craftstore.lk/ . “We managed to get a few local orders through this online platform and was able to complete one overseas order to Lebanon just before the lockdown”, says Kosala.
“Although at first my husband did not agree with me having a job, today he is happy, as I manage my business and take care of my daughter’s education and other family needs. Even during the hard times in our lives I was able to move forward. I received a video on how to make facemasks from Sthree and they asked me to bring samples and prices. I was able to supply a 250-mask order to WDC and earn an income of Rs. 12,250/=. More than the money, this has motivated me to think and produce many things needed for this time. That is why I like to come to WDC whenever they ask me to come. During each visit to WDC or Sthree I learn new things which encourages me to create new designs. Now my dream is to start my own business again and then support other members as well. With my life experience what I want to say is”:
“If we dreamt not be dependent, we are winners each and every day in our lives…”
Many thanks to COL, from the women and girls from Sri Lanka, for supporting WDC to reach women like Kosala and strengthening their lives through improved livelihoods.
W.L.A.D. Chandrathilaka – Program Manager
WDC – Kandy, Sri Lanka
May 28, 2020