Project Saubhagya Celebrates 14 Years of Empowering Rural Women Entrepreneurs
Top Performers of 2016 Recognized At Annual Diriya Pranama Awards
Unilever Sri Lanka’s Project Saubhagya, a longstanding symbol of women’s empowerment in the country’s rural areas, awarded its top performers at the annual Diriya Pranama Awards held recently at the Cinnamon Grand. The awards celebrate the top 100 entrepreneurs of Unilever’s Saubhagya Channel across the island.
Currently in its 14th year, 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 for the third consecutive year was Mrs. R. N. Ranjani of the Monaragala district.
The chief guest of the event was veteran actress Malini Fonseka. Also in attendance as special guests were Neil Hapuhinna – Director General, Samurdhi Authority and J. K. Pathmasiri – Director Planning, Samurdhi Authority.
“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 in Sri Lanka is critical for our nation’s growth and future prosperity.
"By improving their livelihoods through opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship, we are able to build stronger distribution networks and create a more sustainable business, also supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of creating gender equality” said Unilever Sri Lanka’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 5,000 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, awarding 55 scholarships this year to top performers at the year 5 scholarship exam, G.C.E O/Level and students qualifying for university entry. Unilever Sri Lanka also finances community development projects in their villages.
As a result, these women have a guaranteed regular and sustainable income that has 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.