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Unilever ‘Saubhagya’ empowering rural women with spirit of entrepreneurship

March, 17, 2014

100 top achievers awarded at Saubhagya Diriya Pranama Award

Unilever Sri Lanka was proud to recognize and reward its best performers of Saubhagya at its annual “Diriya Pranama Awards” ceremony held at Cinnamon Lakeside recently - aptly following on the heels of International Women’s Day.

Saubhagya, is an endeavour designed to uplift the most deserving and needy women of rural Sri Lanka, through the enabling of financial independence. Saubhagya empowers women by providing them with a sustainable source of income as Unilever ambassadors, selling Unilever brands to households in their respective villages. This year, more than 150 Saubhagya entrepreneurs who achieved their sales targets were rewarded, out of which the top 100 were felicitated at the ceremony for their commitment and dedication. These achievers received rewards of their choice consisting of gold or electrical items, amounting to a total of over Rs. 3.2 million. Also present at the occasion were, Mr. R.P.D. Thilakasiri, Director General, Mr. K.K.L. Chandrathilaka, Director Banking & Finance, and Mr. Denzil Fernando, Assistant Director, Mahasangam, and Mr. C.D. Kaluarachchi, General Manager from the Samurdhi Authority of Sri Lanka along with the Unilever Board of Directors.

Sri Lanka’s former Asian Gold Medalist for Hurdles, Sriyani Kulawansa delivered the motivational speech.

Speaking at the occasion, Kumudu De Silva, Channel Manager, Saubhagya says, “We are extremely pleased with the impact that Project Saubhagya has made on the lives of women who were marginalized by society and faced countless hardships due to their financial status. Through Saubhagya we have elevated the social standing of these women in their villages and enhanced their quality of life. This initiative has also created an economic impact on the country at large.”

Elaborating further Rohitha Annasiwatta, Head of New Business, added, “In addition to enabling these women to gain financial stability to clothe, feed and educate their children, we reward their dedication and hard work by felicitating them. Our aim is to instill a sense of pride at what they have achieved, along with enhanced self-esteem and confidence. We want to empower them and open their eyes to a new world filled with the hope of a brighter tomorrow.”

What started 11 years ago with just 5 women entrepreneurs has now grown to an extensive sales channel of over 3600 women from across the island. The project is implemented in collaboration with the Samurdhi Authority of Sri Lanka which grants the loans for the initial investments. The neediest rural women are nominated by the regional Samurdhi Authorities and thereafter recruited by Unilever as entrepreneurs. Unilever gives these women invaluable exposure to the world of entrepreneurship and provides extensive sales training, covering best trading practices. The Unilever team then ensures constant knowledge enhancement and maintenance of quality standards and ethical trading practices. Unilever Saubhagya operates in 200 Samurdhi societies and has been instrumental in enhancing the livelihood of over 3,600 families.

The Company has also ensured that via employee volunteerism, Saubhagya entrepreneurs are benefited even further. This year, the best 150 Saubhagya achievers received a mango tree plant each, along with 5 varieties of seeds to encourage further self-sustainability through the creation of 150 organic gardens - yet another avenue of entrepreneurship. Unilever aims to extend Saubhagya to other untapped areas and will continue to add vitality to the lives of rural women by creating self-made entrepreneurs who will play a pivotal role as a new breed of Unilever brand ambassadors.