2. Community advocacy
Diaspora Lanka is frequently asked to advocate on behalf of individuals, groups and organisations on a range of issues. We meet with the hierarchy, officers and staff of government, military, community and religious agencies and commissions to represent or support those who have a concern or grievance. Diaspora Lanka’s “there are no enemies” approach sees all parties as part of the solution.
3. Business development
3.1 Rice to Riches: daily income for vulnerable women
This is a livelihood program through micro business development in Manthai West Division in Mannar District. It targets vulnerable women – both war widows and returned internally displaced persons (IDPs) – across three villages where relations between Catholics, Muslims and Hindus are strained. A milling operation (rice, rice flour, curry, chilli powders) will provide a daily income for women, helping them back on their feet.
Activities summary from the last visit to Sri Lanka
• The overseeing committee (reps from Rural Development Societies (RDS) and Women’s Rural Development Societies (WRDS) of Pappamottai, Theanudayan and Kandal have functioned well, providing regular reports to Kamal Raj, from Diaspora Lanka.
• The iPledg! crowd-funder raised AU$6,000 for the project, leaving an AU$7,500 shortfall.
• Six site visits were made to monitor the construction progress from the laying of the foundation to the erection of walls and roofing. Machines for de-husking, de-stoning and grinding have been installed and three-phase power is currently being connected.
• The recruitment phase, including timelines, was discussed by the committee.
• Mill owner, Sasibawan, has contributed 30% of all expenses to date as set down in the MOU and once the mill is operational will start to pay back the 70% loan at a 1% interest rate. The repayments will go into a revolving fund to support additional livelihood initiatives.
• Ranjan, DL worker, and Tauri Tampuu, Estonian volunteer, compiled a book of recipes from the women of Mannar, one of the “rewards” of the recent iPledg! crowd-funding campaign
• Recruit female workers based on vulnerability criteria, skills and personal outlook.
• Raise remaining funds of AU$7,500 to cover electricity connection costs and the first six months of the mill operation.
• Provide updates and rewards to all those who financially contributed toward the project.
How you can help
• Contribute toward the outstanding amount for the project: AU$7,500.
• Consider personally supporting this women’s initiative by joining a support group to monitor the project’s development, keep in touch with the women, and to raise further funds.
Since working closely with the established mechanisms of government – the Manthai West District Secretary and the relevant Grama Niladharis – and transitioning from a social enterprise model with a business edge to a business model with a social edge, the project has progressed at a great pace. Instead of a cooperative model, DL openly canvassed for one person to be the mill owner who would subsequently employ a workforce. The experienced rice mill owner has demonstrated great commitment to his business and has been responsible for driving the rapid and quality building construction process, working in cooperation with the committee and DL.