Rupa Manel Silva is on her way to a women’s bank she set up 20 years ago in Sri Lanka. Born to a poor family, she realized the only way for women like her to have opportunities was to create them for themselves.
From small beginnings the bank now counts 60 000 active members and has over 8 million dollars in savings.
The bank works because of its community based concept, groups of between 5 to 15 women make their own decisions, account for their own finances, and decide who will be granted a loan.
Rupa Manel Silva, President Women’s Bank
The empowerment of women, has been a real achievement. One aim of the women’s bank is to really help women who have been marginalized. This helps them to empower themselves economically and socially, and hopefully allows them to lead more satisfactory lives.
Indrani Hemelatha and her husband lost their house and everything they owned when the Asian Tsunami hit Sri Lanka in late 2004.
Faced with an uncertain future, Indrani got a loan from the women’s bank so she and her husband could start making tee-shirts to sell commercially.
Indrani Hemalatha, Women’s Bank Member
As a result of the efforts of the womens bank, we have been able to become successful, and we have now been able to employ 6 people to work here.
Across the country thousands of small women’s groups are taking charge of their future. Because of social obstacles and high interest rates from money lenders, it was nearly impossible for women to contemplate loans in the past.
The women’s bank has changed that.
Ghawathi Mayage, Women’s Bank Member
I have been a member of this bank for several years. My daughter is geeting married, and I need a loan to pay for the wedding. This is a big relief for me because otherwise I would have to go to a money lender whose interest rates are extremely high.
A new report from the International Labour Organization shows that economic empowerment for women is vital if they are to participate equally with men for equal participation of women and men in the labour market and have access to obtaining decent work.
Tine Staermose, Director ILO Sri Lanka
It’s quite encouraging to see when a woman like Rupa Manel Silva takes this on, because there are so many glass ceilings in a society like the Sri Lankan society for a woman. So she is a true advocate of women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka.