January, 22, 2019
Selyn, Sri Lanka’s only fair-trade guaranteed handloom company, has been recognized by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) as one of 15 organizations to offer employer-supported childcare in the country. Selyn currently employees over 1,000 workers of which 90% are women, leading the company to prioritize providing an enabling work environment to retain its human resources.
Selyna Peiris, Director Business Development at Selyn says “Sri Lanka’s handloom industry has traditionally been dominated by women. However, in the recent past we saw a decline in the industry due to a number of reasons, one of which was the lack of skilled workers. Many women who were skilled in the art were unable to continue working in the industry mainly due to family obligations especially having to look after their children. We recognized this issue and decided to establish a number of initiatives to support the women we work with so that they could continue to remain in the workforce.”
The company developed three employment options to give its workforce flexibility to manage their familial demands while continuing to work. Selyn’s direct employees work in its four handloom factories, its dye plant and toy factory. Selyn also has an independent workshop model where clusters of people work together, completing tasks such as weaving and stitching. Additionally, the company has over 200 homeworkers who work from home, producing non-weaving items. This model is becoming more popular amongst women who need the flexibility to tend to the needs of their families. In another bid to support parents, Selyn has a flexible working structure, which allows parents to drop their kids off at school, work in the factories, pick their kids up after school and continue to work from home.
This enables them to work part-time in the factories as well as benefit from the homeworker model. Facilities such as a breast-feeding room, a waiting area for kids and a doctor on call are also available at the factory.
Back in 2013 Selyn introduced a daycare center for young pre-school children in its largest weaving village in Kumbukgette. This year, the facility was extended to include primary school children and plans are being made to further extend it to accommodate children up to 18 years of age very soon. The child care facility has immensely benefitted employees, who previously had to rely on unreliable child care options leading them to drop out of the workforce in most instances.
“Not only do these initiatives benefit the well-being of the local children and the community, they also make perfect business sense to us. The daycare facility in particular has resulted in reduced
absenteeism, increased staff productivity, the retention of skilled workers, and reduced staff turnover costs. It is very clear that we as an organization can truly make a difference in the lives of our employees by taking the time to identify their difficulties and taking steps to support them with sustainable solutions,” added Ms Peiris.
Selyn Exporters (Pvt) Ltd began operations in 1991 working with 15 women in the village of Wanduragala in Kurunegala and has since grown into a network of around 1,000 workers across the island. Selyn exports its fair-trade products to 40 countries around the world and at the same time retails in premium locations across the country.