The Women of the Future: Women’s Enterprise Graduations

In a country where the female population outnumbers the male, empowerment opportunities for women should be an integral part in the development of society. Sri Lanka has a proud history of powerful women, having produced the world’s first female Prime Minister, Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike whose daughter, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga went on to serve two terms as Sri Lanka’s first female president. The women of modern Sri Lanka inherit a rich legacy at the hands of these powerful and empowered women who have proven through example that crossing gender lines is an achievable task for any determined female. Shown the possibility for empowerment, the next step is to give Sri Lankan women the opportunity to fashion their lives along the lines they dreamed of. At this point, locational advantages often come in to play, proximity to urbanised towns and cities tend to increase the availability of such opportunities and this is illustrated by the majority of powerful females in Sri Lanka emerging from the larger cities of the island. The FoG focuses on bringing these same opportunities to women in rural sectors. In proceeding with this task, and providing them with opportunities that would allow them a feasible chance to incorporate their own success with the lives they were currently leading while also meeting the needs they had expressed.

Empowering women and giving them a chance to earn their own living, realise their dreams and exercise a degree of control over the course of their lives has been the end result sought out by the Foundation of Goodness when they introduced the Women’s Enterprise courses and workshops. Women’s Enterprise is a FoG sector dedicated towards instructing local women free of cost in areas which include sewing, patchwork, curtain making, beauty culture, lace making, general cookery and dessert and pastry making. The women attending these classes have some of the items they produce available for sale at the Lahiru Handicraft boutique at the MCC Centre of Excellence. Others have gone on to establish private ventures such as bakeries, salons or clothing boutiques. The women who dream of having their own business ventures such as this can seek help and guidance through the FoG Business Skills Centre so that they will never feel alone stepping out in to the world, or be held back by their own trepidation or lack of knowledge.

Saturday the 7th of July was special day for the Women’s Enterprise students; it was the day of their graduation. Always a resplendent event which was not just a graduation ceremony but also an opportunity to display the skills they had acquired over their period of study the day was made more special than ever before this year. Usually held at the FoG premises, this exciting event was only open to a limited audience due to the number of people able to be admitted by the size of the venue. Therefore, some of the parents, family and well-wishers of the graduates would often have to miss out on a chance to witness their accomplishments. During the first graduation for 2012, five years since the establishment of this sector, we decided to make the Women’s Enterprise graduation even bigger and better than before.

The first order of business was a new, larger venue at which to host the event, and the Refresh Hotel in the nearby town of Hikkaduwa was selected as the ideal place. The event was publicised, and opened up to any family, well-wisher or passer-by who would like to drop in.

There were stalls displaying the hard work of the students, containing sewing and patchwork, beeralu lace, curtains and other handicrafts which were also available for sale. The cookery, bakery and dessert/ pastry students had organised a cookery demonstration at their stall which was also dedicated to showcasing the mouth-watering the beautiful array of foodstuff that they had created.

In the evening, the Beauty Care students had their moment to shine at the bridal fashion show. Here, they got the opportunity to show off their newly learned skills by dressing the models for the show which had a bridal theme. 

There were brides dressed along a variety of cultural and religious traditions and over 70 models walked the stage that night. The fashion show was judged by some of Sri Lanka’s notable beauticians Ms Kanthi Fernandopulle and Ms Sithara Fernandopulle, who themselves were ideal idols for these ladies about to take on the world.

Like Kanthi and Sithara, the chief guest and special guests invited to this occasion were good examples of the afore mentioned Sri Lankan legacy of powerful women in leading roles, who’s own lives could inspire the aspiring women, young and old, passing through the halls of FoG. Eranga Abeywickrama, the Manager at Hatton National was among the special guests, and Chief Guest Mrs. Rohini Nanayakkara who gave an impassioned speech, urging all present to stand up to violence against women was perhaps the greatest role model these ladies could look up to. The past General Manager and CEO of the Bank of Ceylon, Mrs. Nanayakkara shattered the glass ceiling for any women who would choose to follow. She was appointed as a member of the Task Force to Rebuild the Nation in 2005 by His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka and currently serves as the chairperson of Lanka ORIX Leasing Company and the CEO of the Private Sector Infrastructure Development Fund, a World Bank funded project.

The five year anniversary of the Women’s Empowerment program has now seen the completion of vocational training for 1937 students, and at the graduation in December this year, we will be proud to have over 2000 graduates who have received qualifications because of this program. The student who delivered the vote of thanks at the end of the graduation broke down in tears as she recounted her own battles and hardships. Having received prized for multiple brides dressed by herself for the fashion show, she spoke of her lifelong dream of becoming a beauty care technician. A dream that had been relegated to the backburner for her entire life due to financial difficulties, and although she had the desire, she never had the money to further her learning and vocational training. Because of the free training offered by the Foundation of Goodness she could finally achieve her life’s ambition. An endless stream of personal tales similar to this one fills all those involved with this program with a deep sense of satisfaction, and it often feels like we are the blessed ones, to be able to help so many people achieve things they have wanted so badly, but always felt was out of their reach. 

Graduating Class / Number of Graduating Students
Sewing 60
Beauty Care 48
Bakery 35
General Cookery 16
Patch Work 33
Beeralu Lace 07
Curtain Making 42

The Women’s Enterprise sector has flourished because of the time, love and attention poured upon it by its sector managers Mrs Fazana Ibrahim and Mr. Asiri Suranga and the tireless effort and co-ordination on the part of the sector heads in Seenigama, Mrs. Rangi Lakshika Wijerathna and Ms. Rashika Krishanthi. The success of the students is also a reflection upon their dedicated teachers, Mrs. Volga Subhashini who teaches Sewing and Patchwork, Ms. Rashika Krishanthi who teaches Beauty Care, Mr. Venura Sajith Pradeepal who instructs the Bakery classes, Ms. Kamani Dhammika Wakishta and Mr. Asiri Jayawardena who teach the General Cookery Classes, Mrs. Malani De Silva who instructs the Beeralu Lace students and Mrs, Thilaka Ranjani who conducts the Curtain Making Class. 

On behalf of the FoG we would also like to thank our special guests that evening,CEO of Lanka ORIX Leasing Company PLC Mrs. Rohini Nanayakkara, beauticians Ms Kanthi Fernandopulle and Ms Sithara Fernandopulle, Mrs. Ruwini Gunasekera and Ms. Hiruni Gunasekera, Manager of the Hatton National Bank Eranga Abeywickrama, and Upali and Gamini, the Heads of the Refresh Hotel in Hikkaduwa . Representing the Foundation of Goodness was the visionary who made all this a reality, Mr. Kushil Gunasekera, and members of staff including Mr. Sampath Viraj, Mrs. Priyadarshini Soysa, Sector Managerss Mr. Asiri Suranga and Mrs. Fazana Ibrahim, Head of the FoG Sports Aademy Mr. Anura De Silva, and FoG well-wishers Ian and Catherine Cowling.

"Cut not the wings of your dreams, for they are the heartbeat and the freedom of your soul." - ~ Flavia ~





23rd of February 2018




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