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On 8th of March nine women celebrated hopeful futures in an exhibition that showcased their creations. They were very proud of their achievements and only had words of appreciation for the project that gave them the courage to challenge the odds– wings to fly. “Through the village society I have achieved much. I am in a better position today because everybody encouraged and supported me. I am extremely grateful to all those who helped me” said Sujeewa a women member of the village society.

LEADS district office in Ratnapura oragnized an event for the distribution of certificates in Tailoring marking the International Women's Day.

Ratnapura is famous for precious gem stones and is historically considered a significant place for jewelry and crafts in Sri Lanka. Located in the deep western-central region of Sabaragamuwa province Ratnapura district hosts some of the richest (gem traders) and the poorest people (labourers/ miners). LEADS has been working there for the past three years implementing a Participatory Livelihood project among the poorer families. In addition to this LEADS was supported by TIA (Australia) to carry out an empowerment program in Rajasisugama village of Haldolla GN.

The program helped nine women celebrate International Women’s Day by honouring them with certificates of achievement. These women are members of a village society formed under LEADS livelihood development intervention. So little did they know of the significance of 8th March, the International Day for Women until this event took place. The program that identified and trained women of very poor families provided 4 months of training and skills building in tailoring. At the end of their training the women were given the opportunity to obtain a loan from the revolving fund set up by the village society. This enabled for some women to buy sewing machines.

With a spirit of ‘I Can’ they drew up business plans, and pitched their dreams on improving their lives. Those who could not afford to buy a sewing machine just yet, planned on a scheme where they could use their neigbour’s machine every week. The society encourages women members to work together and help each other.

Sujeewa Dulanjali (21) is one of those fortunate women discovered by the empowerment project. She is a mother of a young child and her husband is a labourer working as a miner. She says he spends long days and long nights at the bottom of a pit, sifting dirt in search of precious gem stones. When the demand for labourers is less in gem mines he works on sand mining -taking a wooden boat across the placid waters, he shoves bucket-full of sand to transport a days-worth of river sand to the shore. River sand is in high demand for contruction work. There are so many like him toiling as labourers. Yet Social Inequality is such that a miner is a mere number on the wage sheets of a rich merchant. Without a doubt the benefit of valuable gem stones as well as truckloads of sand goes to the merchant’s account and very little is given to compensate long hours of labour. On an average day Sujeewa syas her husband gets paid 800 LKR.

Sujeewa being selected for a tailoring course became a major breakthrough for the young family. Equipped with both skills and a sewing machine Sujeewa set about a small business making frocks for little children. She started receiving orders regularly. She says she is hopeful of taking the business to the next level. With the income she earns she hopes to make improvements to their home.

“I Can" said Sujeewa "This is the feeling we all share. We started to think differently - everybody is friendly and supporting each other in our scoiety” she added.

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