Women’s Development Training in Seenigama
It was an honour to welcome Mrs Indrani Iriyagolle, President of the Sinhala Women’s Welfare & Development Foundation, to Seenigama this May. She came, along with a team of prestigious trainers, to deliver Women’s Development Training to graduates of FoG’s Women’s Enterprise Centre.
The Sinhala Women’s Welfare & Development Foundation works across Sri Lanka, in all communities, to build confidence and help women to utilise their skills and strengths for personal, economic, and community well being.
The Women’s Development Training follows an international curriculum to empower women to assert their rights, gain knowledge and build their confidence and to use the resources at their disposal.
17 students participated in the programme, from 8 villages. All are either completing or have graduated from Beralu Lacemaking, Bakery or Sewing courses at the MCC Centre of Excellence in Seenigama. 11 are currently earning an income in either tourism, photography or dress making.
The programme was held at the community hall in the Aviva Housing Complex.
The lecturers arrived having battled the monsoon floods that brought much of Colombo to a standstill, to find the Seenigama villagers also struggling against the waters. Many villagers were dealing with flooded homes, possessions ruined in a stark reminder of the waters that had changed the course of their lives in December 2004.
Because of the rains, many women struggled to attend, but still were able to take part in a lively discussion on Day 1, about their lives, the barriers they face in starting their own business or finding their own personal ‘me time’. One woman described how she gets up at 4am every morning and works in the house or tending to her grandchildren all day. The only break she gets is half an hour to watch the soap opera on TV in the afternoon, which she watches while working on her beralu lace.
On day 2, the women, aged between 20 and 68 and with between 2 and 4 children each, learnt from Mrs Premila Diwakara , Sri Lanka’s first women senior police superintendent, about their legal rights and about those of their children. Many women had a basic understanding of child abuse at the beginning of the day, but were soon informed of all their rights, which is crucial in taking action. This session was followed by Mrs Rukmani Samaranayake, a Colombo university lecturer and published author, who gave a crash course in Learning English, a vital skill which opens doors to those who have the confidence and perseverance to give it a go.
On day 3 and 4 Mr Pathiranage , a lawyer from Colombo and Mrs Susila Wirakkodi, Assistant President Women’s Welfare & Development Foundation encouraged the women through debate and discussion.
The impact of this course could be seen on the faces of the women as they listened, discussed and seized every opportunity to learn more, even asking for homework! One girl asked if she could bring her friends and family to listen, while others explained that they know so little about these things and really need more knowledge in order to live their lives in a better way. The course culminated in a lovely graduation ceremony, where the students thanked the visiting lecturers profusely for their kind and generous sharing of their time.
This course was funded thanks to the support of the Australian company Cooper Investors, which has recently pledged to support the Business Skills Development Centre in Seenigama for the year.
Kushil, Founder and Trustee of the Foundation of Goodness expressed his thanks to Mrs. Iriyagolle and FoG’s sector manager Suranga for organising this event. “The rural women are the cornerstone of the community. They are its heart and soul. At the Foundation of Goodness we work with local women to build their knowledge, to give them information that sadly they are lacking but that is crucial to their own and their family’s and community’s wellbeing. Empowerment is a complex concept, but it comes from simple steps and thanks to the expertise of the Sinhala Women’s Welfare & Development Foundation, the women of Seenigama are a step closer to achieving their dreams for a bright and prosperous future”.
“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do”. ~Edward Everett Hale