The majority of women in the villages in which Suriya works in, are engaged in the informal economy and have no labour rights or protection. They work as agriculture labourers, run small home gardens, make food for sale, sew, fish, pound rice into flour, collect firewood, collect honey, have small poultry farms or a few livestock. Our strategy in this programme is two fold.
- Building women’s entrepreneurship and sustainable livelihoods
- Working on women labour rights in the care and informal economy
The women who receive grants from Suriya for livelihood support are often women headed households who have been marginalised in their homes and communities. They have faced many social and cultural challenges in accessing development assistance. Some of the women have been living through years of domestic violence.
Women’s independent income
In terms of sustainable income support, 60% women we have supported have become economically stable. Women have been involved in poultry rearing, small business, goat rearing, home gardening, cow rearing, handicraft business (Palmyrah), mat weaving and sewing. In the villages where we work, women found that sharing their experiences with one another helped them to keep motivated as well as to learn other methods of carrying out their livelihood activity. We have facilitated exposure visits to other villages involved in women’s entrepreneurship in order to learn about production processes.
The Chamber of Commerce conducts training on marketing and business planning, and women have begun a process to register their products at the district level. Registration means women are able to sell their produce more effectively and obtain more orders and registration provides them with a guarantee of quality from the government veterinary surgeons.
We have strengthen many other women’s groups organising for their livelihood by facilitating their participation at International trade fairs and exhibitions.
We use research and consultations with key stakeholders to working on the gap in information on women in the informal economy and care economy and to demand more rights for women in this sector. Suriya produced a Policy Brief on women’s work “My Work! My Time! My Value?” which we have been using to create a discourse around the need for recognising women’s work and need for change in legislation to provide rights for men and women in the informal economy.
Suriya has produced 2 short documentary films as a continuation of our work in pushing for a rights-based focus on women’s livelihoods programs being implemented in the district. These films call for workers’ rights for women working in the informal economy, and highlight the importance of counting the economic contribution of women to the care economy. They have been shown at the International Trade Fairs in Batticaloa and at International Women’s Day events. These short documentary films are available on loan to the public.