A longstanding symbol of women’s empowerment in rural areas, Unilever Sri Lanka’s Project Saubhagya awarded its top performers at the Annual Diriya Pranama Awards held recently at the Cinnamon Lakeside. The awards celebrate the top 100 entrepreneurs of Unilever’s Saubhagya Channel across the island.
Project Saubhagya is Unilever Sri Lanka’s key initiative under its Unilever Sustainable Living Plan pillar of providing ‘opportunities for women’. This unique project empowers women through entrepreneurialism, helping rural women become direct-to-home ambassadors of Unilever brands. As a testament to the success of the programme and the capabilities of rural women, this year’s top entrepreneur, Mrs. R. N. Ranjani of the Monaragala district, accounted for a turnover of Rs.10 million.
The chief guest of the event was Thamara Dissanayake, the personal Secretary to the Hon. Minister of Social Empowerment and Welfare, S. B. Dissanayake. She was accompanied by guest of honour, popular TV and cinema artiste, Sriyani Amarasena. Also in attendance as special guests were Dr. Sunil Jayantha Navarathna, the consultant to the Ministry of Social Empowerment and Welfare, Chandra Wickramasinghe, the Director General of Divi Neguma Development Department, and the Board of Directors of Divi Neguma Development Department.
“Unilever Sri Lanka is deeply invested in the future of Sri Lanka and we strongly believe that to reach our nation’s ultimate potential, women must have a seat at the table when determining the path forward. The advancement of women’s rights and the economic inclusion of women is critical for our nation’s growth and future prosperity. This is why we initiated Project Saubhagya in partnership with the Divi Neguma Development Department of Sri Lanka,which grants the entrepreneurs the loans needed for their initial investment. By improving their livelihoods through opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship, we are able to build stronger distribution networks and create a more sustainable business,” said USL’s Customer Development Director, Aruna Mawilmada.
Project Saubhagya stems from a deep understanding of the difficulties faced by women in developing markets and the integral part they play within Unilever’s own distribution network. It was implemented in 2003 with 5 brave women entrepreneurs that took the first step towards economic inclusion and the programme has progressed from there to more than 4000 Saubhagya entrepreneurs today.
On their journey to economic inclusion they are equipped with basic knowledge in sales, accounts and even in health and hygiene. Going further Unilever Sri Lanka also supports the education of their children and finances community development projects in their villages. As a result, these women have a guaranteed regular and sustainable income that have not only increased their standard of living but also the prosperity of their villages.Ultimately Unilever wishes to grow its network of women entrepreneurs to 14,000 to represent the 14,000 Grama Niladari divisions of Sri Lanka.