Empowering Women to Climb the Economic Ladder

Shriyani packs bakery products
with her two daughters.

Surpassing the Stereotype

Shriyani is no ordinary housewife. In Sri Lanka, a woman who works at home is sometimes treated like a person who has no real job. However, Shriyani has waived off the stereotype - and while some argue that the poor are not creditworthy, Shriyani has proved them wrong - not once, but four times. Shriyani lives with her husband and four children in Kandy district - a remote village without electricity or proper roads. There are no banks, and many people depend on money lenders who charge very high interest rates.

First Steps

Shriyani’s husband heard about Plan’s efforts to help its local partner, Sarvodaya Economic Enterprise Development Services (SEEDS), to start a microfinance program. He told his wife, and Shriyani has never looked back. “I joined what is known as an economic empowerment group and started a group savings, which qualified us to take a loan. For the first time in my life, I borrowed a small loan of Rs 3500 ($66) to start a small bakery business selling sweets and biscuits to neighbors,” she says. “After that I got a second loan of Rs 5000 ($94), to purchase a sewing machine, which I used to stitch dresses for sale. Once I paid the second loan, I could take out a third loan of Rs 10,000 ($188) for growing food. Finally, I got a fourth loan of Rs 30,000 ($656) to start a grinding mill.”

Climbing the Ladder

Shriyani’s group started with 11 members, nine of whom were women. SEEDS has now established 14 economic empowerment groups in the area, with a total membership of 170 people, 97% of whom are women. Nationally SEEDS now provides services to 231 groups, with 2,800 members of whom 2,500 are women. They can mobilize more than Rs 10 million ($180,000) in member savings, and the SEEDS loan portfolio amounts to Rs 45 million ($840,000). A feature of Plan’s microfinance work is the social empowerment of women, who have had opportunities to lead group work and meetings, and to better their financial management skills. “I was almost nobody in the village and I came out from hiding. Today, I am the main bread winner in our family,” Shriyani says. “This program gives me an opportunity to invest in the education of my children.”