Ms. Champa Upasena, Director - Women’s Bureau of Sri Lanka was the Chief Guest of the evening while Mrs. I. D. K. Sanjeewani Deputy Director (Social Development) - Samurdi Development Department joined in as a special guest.
Currently in its 15th year, Project Saubhagya is Unilever Sri Lanka’s key initiative under its Unilever Sustainable Living Plan pillar of providing ‘opportunities for women’ and has emerged as a symbol of women’s empowerment in the country’s rural areas. This unique initiative partners with rural women and gives them the opportunity to become direct-to-home ambassadors of Unilever brands thereby empowering them to become entrepreneurs in their own right. The guaranteed regular and sustainable income they earn through this goes a long way in helping the women improve their standard of living.
As a testament to the success of the programme and the capabilities of rural women, this year’s top entrepreneur for the third consecutive year was Mrs. R. N. Ranjani of the Monaragala district. 17 entrepreneurs were recognised for long service, having been with the programme from its very inception.
“At Unilever Sri Lanka, we firmly believe that the empowerment of women is central to driving and sustaining economic development at a national level. In line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of creating gender equality, Project Saubhagya is a key element of our efforts towards providing greater opportunities for women and empowering them financially. Helping improve their livelihoods, it also allows us to build stronger distribution networks and create a more sustainable business,” said Unilever Sri Lanka’s Customer Development Director, Aruna Mawilmada.
“Lauding these ladies for their outstanding achievements, we look forward to working with more likeminded women across the island to grow our network of women entrepreneurs to 14,000, representing the 14,000 Grama Niladari divisions of Sri Lanka.”
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. Initiated in 2003 with 5 brave women entrepreneurs who took the first step towards economic inclusion, the programme now engages over 5,000 Saubhagya entrepreneurs today. Unilever also equips them with basic knowledge on sales and accounts as well as health and hygiene to further support them in their journey towards greater economic inclusion.
Going beyond supporting women through such endeavors, Unilever Sri Lanka assists them with the education of their children through the Saubhagya Scholarships Programme. Scholarships were awarded to 26 students who excelled in the Grade 5 Scholarship exams, 9 students who scored 9 As in their Ordinary Levels (O/L) exams, 11 who secured entry into universities and 5 national level sports and aesthetics performers at the event. Unilever Sri Lanka also finances community development projects in their villages.