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Under the Climate Change Adaptation Project of the UNDP, communities in Walapane in the Nuwara Eliya District and Medirigiya in the Polonnaruwa District, become more climate-resilient
The following story is about one of many individuals who have overcome challenges due to the effects of climate change. The report by the United Nations Development Programme was exclusive to the Daily Mirror for the Sustainable Nation Column
Through community enterprises established under the Climate Change Adaptation Project of the UNDP, communities in Walapane in the Nuwara Eliya District and Medirigiya in the Polonnaruwa District, are now more climate-resilient.
The project is implemented by the former Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment and is supported by the United Nations Development Programme and the World Food Programme, with financial assistance from the Adaptation Fund.
“At first I had a small garment factory with only five employees. During this time I joined a training programme that provided me with the knowledge and skills to run my garment factory. The programme was conducted at a training centre in Thunhitiyawa and another in Walapane with over a hundred students participating. A leadership-training followed with 25 of us participating. Of the 25 who took part in the training, 14 are currently working in my factory.” This is the journey of Janitha Dissanayaka, a 35-year old woman managing a team of 14 in a garment factory in Walapane, Nuwara Eliya.
The training was an initiative under the Climate Change Adaptation Project that strengthens livelihoods of communities affected by climate change by introducing them to alternative sources of income. While Janitha is the manager of the factory, she is also an experienced designer. Among her team, Janitha is the only one with any prior experience working at a garment factory. For the rest of them, this has been a new journey.
Janitha’s factory has helped uplift the lives of its employees by giving them a stable occupation with a steady income. The people who work at this factory were previously engaged in agriculture and were severely affected by the effects of climate change. Drought conditions have severely damaged crops and negatively impacted their income.
Personal success leads to community success
The people who work at Janitha’s factory are all from the same community and the atmosphere in the factory is both genial and focused. They work fast to reach their goals, keeping an eye on the noticeboard at the back of the room that shows how many items they have finished, how much money the factory has earned, and how much more they need to earn to meet their daily goals. These women and men are driven and focused on personally succeeding at their work while ensuring that the factory thrives through their hard work.
Janitha all smiles about her garment factory and the work she does.
“I had the opportunity of receiving training from the Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration on the mechanical aspects of machines. This was a 15-day training programme and I am really happy to have learnt something I never knew before”, says Janitha.
“With all the training I have received, I now share what I know with my colleagues in the factory. It has immensely helped them improve their skills. They are happy to be here and happy to work in the factory”, adds Janitha. Seeing the happy but focused faces in the factory, one cannot disagree with this statement.
Janitha says that she has faced many challenges in her life, and heading a garment factory too is a challenge. “I started this with some reluctance, but I knew it was something I wanted to do and I intend on winning this challenge too. I want to expand our work further and I know this will be an even bigger challenge. With my wonderful team, we have been able to achieve many milestones, some I would not have been able to achieve on my own. While I have taught them many skills, I have also learnt a lot from them. This has taken me to greater heights”.
Working in a garment factory usually means having to be far from home with added expenses for accommodation and transport. Everyone that works here lives close-by and this allows them to return to their families every day after work.
Janitha appreciates the support provided through the Climate Change Adaptation project and says that the success of this venture wouldn’t have been possible without it. The Climate Change Adaptation project is implemented by the former Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment and the World Food Programme in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with financial assistance from the Adaptation Fund.
Janitha is quick to point out that the fabric which was initially provided was paid for by UNDP which went a long way in helping her start her journey. From guidance with a strategy for managing the factory to learning about the craft, she says that the support has been instrumental. Janitha’s goal is to create more opportunities for women who are still unemployed. They attempt to do something new, from handloom to patchwork to everything else they undertake and are looking at the possibility in the future of involving the womenfolk at homes in the village through subcontracting these small pieces of work. Even though she is the Chairperson of this society, they all consider it as their own. She plans on getting the other women together and taking this venture much further.