Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen meets Head of IFC’s Gender Secretariat Henriette Kolb in Colombo on 26 October.
International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group has extended its support to women business and SME initiatives by Ministry of Industry and Commerce thus boosting Ministry’s blueprints on Lankan SME development.
Praising Minister Rishad Bathiudeen for his approach to Lankan entrepreneurship, a high profile IFC official said that IFC is ready for a pioneering, four-year long intervention in Sri Lankan women business–and to directly partner with 15 Lankan firms to enlist more women in corporate decision making.
Head of IFC’s Gender Secretariat Henriette Kolb noted that the ministry’s entrepreneurial thinking is holistic and practical, and thus they are willing to l collaborate in these projects. Minister Bathiudeen, briefing IFC’s Henriette said, “Our Ministry is working on the national SME policy where a bigger role for women entrepreneurs is envisaged. National Enterprise Development Authority (NEDA) and Industrial Development Board (IDB) are working to develop women’s entrepreneurship and NEDA is working on market access for women.
IDB preparing to develop women owned businesses and planning training programs in rural areas in ten districts at first, and all the other districts in four years.
“The Industry and Commerce Ministry also started work to open a major project-150 women led apparel cottage factories, the first batch in Districts of Monaragala, Polonnaruwa, Ampara, and Mannar.
There will be six months initial training by Sri Lanka Institute of Textile and Apparel (SLITA) under me with Juki (sewing) machines given to them to start the factories.
National Design Centre under my Ministry gives the design training. When their industries finally start to become businesses, they will then be transformed to Cooperative Society Units with buy-back assurance from the government, An important aspect here is that the factories are linked to the buyers directly, eliminating the middlemen. This is a new enterprise model and we are encouraged that our pilot project has been successful. We will also start e-biz training next month (November) for entrepreneurs to take them online. We look forward to IFC’s support in our women entrepreneur initiatives at all levels including micro and SMEs.”
It is estimated that Sri Lanka has 1.09 million Micro, SME and large enterprises, of which around 587,300 are registered while another 432,300 are not. 25 percent of all “registered” enterprises are owned by women (26.3 percent in micro scale, 8.3 percent in small scale, 6.1 percent of medium scale and 4.6 percent of large scale enterprises under women ownership). Meanwhile, if the unregistered 432,300 enterprises are also added, then the women’s stake in the country’s private sector economy is significantly higher than presently believed.
“We already know of the barriers to Lankan women’s progress –for example take the tourism sector; the barriers are transport, lack of child care support, and industry perception of women in tourism in particular. IFC’S can, as a development organization, support breaking down these barriers in Lankan women’s business and SMEs,” Henriette added.
Minister Bathiudeen welcomed IFC’s support to Sri Lanka and to his Ministry’s initiatives in particular and revealed that SMEs are a key component in the government’s employment plans. “My Ministry’s support to women entrepreneurs is not only for business growth, but also to support new employment targets in government’s one-million jobs program; still our effort is to do it without being a burden to public funds or the country but by generating ‘self-employment’. This is the goal we are trying to win.’