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John Keells Foundation empowers rural women through Village Adoption Programme

12 March 2015 03:45 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The International Women’s Day commemorated globally on 8th March is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their communities.
This year’s theme, “Empowering Women - Empowering Humanity: Picture It!” envisions a world where each woman can exercise her choices, such as participating in politics, getting an education, having an income, and living in societies free from violence and discrimination. 
Sureka Wanasinghe,, Chandra Kumari Sagarika and Chandima Jayasundara of the small agricultural hamlet of Halmillewa in the Anuradhapura district epitomize how empowered women can in turn empower their families and community.
Halmillewa is the pilot village under the Village Adoption Project of John Keells Foundation (JKF) - the Corporate Social Responsibility entity of the John Keells Group. The Project was initiated in 2005 under the pillar of Community and Livelihood development with the objective of uplifting the lives and living standards of disadvantaged persons and groups including women by empowering them to build and develop themselves and their communities in a sustainable and entrepreneurial manner. 
At present the initiative is active in five villages – namely, Halmillewa, Mangalagama (Ampara District), Iranaipalai in Puthukkudiyiruppu DS and Puthumathalan in Maritimepattu DS (both in Mullaitivu District) and Morawewa North GN in Morawewa DS (Trincomalee District). This integrated rural development project includes access to basic needs such as water, electricity and education, development of sustainable and diversified livelihoods and income generation, entrepreneurship and markets access, water and sanitation, women and youth empowerment activities including skills development and capacity building.
Sureka Wanasinghe is a 39- year old war widow with two young children. She recalls how, after the untimely death of her husband in 2008, she went through a long period of depression and mental instability. She said “I didn’t know what I was doing at that time. I reacted to whatever that came into my mind without thinking of my children. I couldn’t eat nor could I sleep at night. I refused to get help from all my friends and family as I always wanted to stay alone”. 
At this time, Sureka came to learn about JKF’s initiatives to galvanize the women of the village including the establishment of a women’s society with the participation of 65 members. The activities of the society named `Diriyen Idiriyata’ (Moving forward with courage) commenced with the launch of a home-grown savings scheme with the joint contributions of the membership and JKF. This was followed by multiple motivational and capacity building initiatives including weaving, mushroom cultivation, sewing, fabric painting and cloth rug making. 
Out of the villagers who participated in the home gardening competition organized by JKF in both 2012/13 and 2013/14, Sagarika was a keen competitor and was rewarded for her effort and commitment, in spite of the challenge of inclement weather. She said “I am still reaping the fruits of the last harvest. The income received from selling the extra produce helped us settle our electricity and water bills. It was a load off my shoulders!” Sagarika, who also plays an active role in the Women’s Society in the village, further claimed that “since the women’s organization continues to stay strong, the women are less dependent on their husbands. More importantly, we don’t consider ourselves to be less privileged due to the support rendered by JKF that has helped us stand on our own two feet”.
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