October, 12, 2020
With the outbreak of COVID-19, Sri Lanka’s tourism industry was one of the worst affected. A rapid assessment jointly undertaken by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) found that women were disproportionately impacted during this period as 67% among those who lost their jobs were female workers.
As such, UNDP and SLTDA, with financial assistance from Citi, are developing a livelihood support mechanism for female entrepreneurs, with a particular focus on women who are unable to access existing livelihood support services to revive their businesses.
The Government of Sri Lanka has made significant progress in initiating early relief measures to businesses, however, as women make up a majority of the segment of unregistered (informal) service providers in Sri Lanka, this has posed a particular set of problems as informality translates into low wages, precarious working conditions and the absence of social protection. Coupled with an increase in unpaid work and care burdens during the pandemic, female workers have faced barriers to accessing these services.
Speaking about the issue, Robert Juhkam, Resident Representative of UNDP in Sri Lanka stated, “Building resilient social protection systems that help informal sector workers to withstand shocks are a critical element of COVID-19 responses. Supporting female workers affected by the crisis is a key component to ensuring that no one is left behind in Sri Lanka’s socioeconomic recovery efforts. This is both direct relief and recovery, and the initiative will test new approaches to inform future social protection policy thinking”.
Kimarli Fernando, Chairperson of SLTDA highlighted, “The programme will directly support 900 women selected from all 9 Provinces in Sri Lanka. Project initiatives will benefit at least 3,500 men and women indirectly throughout the country. This will be a grant and it will be a relief to the affected parties. Tourism Authorities in Provincial Councils have been asked to identify women engaged in the tourism sector and women who have already registered with the SLTDA who will also be considered for the selection. Selection of beneficiaries will be done by a panel and it will be a transparent process. Each selected beneficiary will get around 50,000 Sri Lankan Rupees worth of assistance. The selected women will receive business development services to enhance their skills for alternative livelihood development. A system will be established to follow up with grant recipients to support them to utilize the grant for developing a complimentary livelihood with the support of provincial tourism authorities. Existing and potential female entrepreneurs will be further supported to obtain business registration with SLTDA, enabling them access to livelihood support from the Government in the future”.
Ravin Basnayake, Citi Country Officer in Sri Lanka shared, “Citi once again pledges its unwavering commitment to serve the local community, on national level efforts to fight against the pandemic. We are proud of our partnership with UNDP and SLTDA on this timely initiative that also demonstrates our shared commitment to women's economic empowerment. We will continue to demonstrate Citi's values through our philanthropic efforts to make a difference to those in need."
The project will engage provincial councils to identify the women entrepreneurs in order to sustain the efforts of the initiative. The programme is in-line with the UN framework for the immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19 that calls on countries to build forward better.