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Sunday May 19th, 2024

Lack of access to finance major barrier to women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka: study

ECONOMYNEXT — Research by free market think tank Advocata has found that persistent disparities in financial and digital literacy are major hindrances to women achieving financial independence in Sri Lanka, a country whose female labour force participation is half of that of men.

The study has found that, despite a commendable literacy rate, disparities in financial and digital literacy hinders access to financial services.

The Advocata Institute said in a statement on the study that Sri Lanka has been struggling with inadequate digital infrastructure and a regulatory environment where vulnerable populations, notably women, face exploitation and marginalisation which contributed to restricting women’s access to finance. Other barriers, which include the lack of digital and financial literacy, drove consumers, especially women, towards informal financial services.

These challenges were highlighted in the study which was funded by the Women’s Policy Action Network (WPAN), supported by the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Findings of the study were discussed at a panel discussion titled “Closing the Divide Through Women’s Access to Financial Inclusion” last week.

According to the WPAN, among the most pressing issues that restrict women from participating in the labor force are unpaid care work and lack of legislation around night time and part time work for women.

Advocata said in its statement that the event had representatives from civil society organisations, policymakers, and women leaders who generated strong advocacy conversations on behalf of women.

WPAN Chair Roshan Perera who also spoke at the event highlighted the high cost of digital access and its limitations on access to finances. Around 60 percent of the population is affected by mobile data affordability, and Sri Lanka is still heavily dependent on cash for online transactions, she said.

“Women’s access to financial services, especially digital financial services could hold the key to greater engagement of women in economic activity and help reduce gender gaps,” said Perera, who had led the research.

Advocata Chair Murtaza Jafferje speaking at the event expressed the need to increase women’s participation in the economy to propel GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Sri Lankan women compared to East Asian peers are underrepresented in the workforce which is a major hindrance for economic growth, he said.

“Women are more than 50 percent of the population, but of you look at the labour participation of the economically active population, which is about 16 million people, the male participation is 70 percent, the female participation is 35 percent. In countries like Vietnam, which has one of the highest [rates of] female labour participation, which is as high as 80 percent and almost equivalent to male. In most East Asian countries it’s about 70 percent,” said Jafferjee.

Access to finance empowers women to be entrepreneurial activities which is a key factor for economic growth, he said, noting that, ,however due to the lack of access to credit has forced women to not go beyond their traditional role in a household.

“One way of avoiding this predicament (low growth) is to have more women participation in the labour force. and women have certain constraints so all of them are not necessarily able to work in formal workplaces and many of them will have to be in informal employment including working for themselves or starting new businesses,” he said. (Colombo/Mar27/2024)

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Sri Lanka seeks to draw youth into agri-entrepreneurship with 1.6bn funding

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Agriculture and Plantation Industries has earmarked 1.6 billion rupees for the establishment of 160 model farms across the island, that are to be owned and operated by youth agri-entrepreneurs.

“The Ministry of Agriculture and Plantation Industries has taken steps to allocate 1,600 million rupees to establish 160 villages in 25 districts with 6 youth agri entrepreneurship villages in each district,” Minister Mahinda Amaraweera was quoted in a statement.

“Arrangements have been made to provide an amount of one million rupees to each village under the first phase.”

The Minister said the aim of the program is to attract youth to agriculture and to introduce them to new agricultural technology, so they could target local markets and exports.

Under the initiative vegetables, fruits, plantation crops, and fish are to be harvested, and livestock products are to be produced in the villages. (Colombo/May18/2024)

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Sri Lanka Navy nabs fishermen engaged in illegal fishing

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Navy apprehended eight persons engaged in illegal fishing in the seas off Ambalanpokkanei, Mullaitivu, Poduwakattu, and Trincomalee, this week.

“The operations also led to the seizure of 3 dinghies and unauthorized fishing gear employed for these illegal acts,” it said in a statement.

“The Sri Lanka Navy remains vigilant and conducts operations to combat illegal fishing in its sea and coastal areas, with a view to supporting legal fishing activities.”

The fishermen were engaging in light-coarse fishing and using unauthorized fishing nets.

They were intercepted by the SLNS Gotabaya and SLNS Walagamba of the Eastern Naval Command.

The individuals were identified as residents of Mullaitivu, Kuchchaveli and Poduwakattu, aged between 21 to 53 years.

The fishermen, dinghies and unauthorized fishing gear were handed over to the Assistant Directorate of Fisheries – Mullaitivu, and the Fisheries Inspector of Trincomalee for legal action, the Navy said. (Colombo/May18/2024)

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Fifteen years after the end of the war, victims still await justice at Mullivaikkal: Amnesty

ECONOMYNEXT – Speaking at a commemoration marking the 15th anniversary of the end of Sri Lanka’s internal armed conflict on 18 May 2009, which culminated in the brutal Mullivaikkal offensive where countless civilian lives were lost, Secretary General at Amnesty International Agnès Callamard said:

“Today’s anniversary is a grim reminder of the collective failure of the Sri Lankan authorities and the international community to deliver justice to the many victims of Sri Lanka’s three-decade-long internal armed conflict.

It is sobering to stand in the same place where, 15 years ago, countless civilian lives were lost during the last days of the war.

Ahead of this event, we have witnessed clampdown on the memory initiatives, including arrests, arbitrary detentions and deliberately skewed interpretations of the Tamil community’s attempts to remember their people lost to the war. Authorities must respect the space for victims to grieve, memorialise their loved ones and respect their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

UN investigations have found credible evidence of crimes under international law and other violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed by those on both sides of the conflict, yet there has been little in the way of an independent or impartial national inquiry into such serious crimes.

Meanwhile, the families of those who were forcibly disappeared during the conflict have been left to search desperately for their loved ones. It is truly heartbreaking to hear from victims how long they have been demanding justice in vain.

The Sri Lankan government is best placed to provide answers to the victims, however numerous domestic mechanisms to establish accountability in the last 15 years have been mere window dressing.

The report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released earlier this week too reiterates the gaping deficits in Sri Lanka’s accountability initiatives that has contributed to impunity remaining deeply entrenched.

Tens of thousands of victims and their families continue to suffer in anguish as they await truth, justice, and reparations. We stand in solidarity with them here in Mullivaikkal today.”

Background:

During the internal armed conflict from 1983 to 2009, Sri Lankan government forces and their armed political affiliates committed extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and acts of torture against Tamils suspected of links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The LTTE also launched indiscriminate suicide attacks on civilian targets like buses and railway stations, assassinated politicians and critics, and forcibly recruited children as fighters.

Violations of international human rights and humanitarian law peaked in the final months of the conflict, most notably in May 2009 when some 300,000 displaced civilians were trapped between the warring parties.

It was at Mullivaikkal, a small village in Mullaitivu district in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, where the final offensive between the Sri Lankan forces and the LTTE took place, killing at least 40,000 civilians according to UN estimates.

Each year, on 18 May, a memorial event at Mullivaikkal brings together thousands of war-affected Tamils to commemorate those lost to the war and demand justice and accountability.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) this week released a report on accountability for enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka.
(Colombo/May18/2024)

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