The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Rural women folk become marketers


Women marketers for Unilever Sri Lanka earning a considerable income have not only contributed to their family but to their villages as well.Participating in the company’s project “Saubhagya” initiated through the Samurdhi Authority, it has created an impact on the livelihoods of low income families that have also allowed women to take up the role of micro-entrepreneurs and becoming economically independent.

More than 70 women were recognized at the awards ceremony this week in Colombo held to honour their achievements and some of who have met targets set out by Unilever as well.Key achievements of these women were highlighted at the ceremony, one of the women A.W. Abeygunasekara from Habaraduwa, Galle was stricken with cancer and was receiving treatment. But she was determined to move ahead and took up the challenge of working to earn a living and commenced earning Rs.1,600 per week that increased later to around Rs.12,000 today monthly. In a bid to help her out, some village residents would even visit her home to buy the goods, she said. Shiromi Sandy from Badalkumbura said that her children were able to obtain scholarships through this programme.

It was later that she realized her eldest son was bright enough to continue his higher studies in medicine. In order to achieve his dream she engaged in marketing Unilever products and was able to earn a considerable income and as a result did not face any economic problems. Another Samurdhi recipient resident in Kantale, Mangalika Kumari said she worked for Unilever under this programme since 2004. Facing hardships in meeting her customers she had to travel amidst an intense war going on as well, she said.

However, she explained that through her earnings she was able to contribute to the reconstruction of a small bridge over a paddy field in her village to help residents to move about easily. Previously, having lived in a small thatched house her income helped to construct a solid house for her family, she said.

W.A. Ranjani from Moneragala was the highest earner from the entire project with increased earnings amounting to Rs.90,000 – Rs.100,000 and this contributed to her monthly income increasing to around Rs.36,000 to Rs.40,000 based on the commission received. She noted that her entire family was supportive and said this proves there is nothing women cannot achieve in life.

These women and many others present at Wednesday’s ceremony was given a motivational boost through the emotional and thought provoking speech by the day’s chief guest Sri Lanka’s sprint queen Susanthika Jayasinghe.She appealed to all women and mothers to take up the challenge to move ahead in life and achieve all goals.

Ms. Jayasinghe spoke in depth on her life and became a key driving force for those present to forge ahead by taking up their responsibilities and keeping their hopes alive.The programme allows these women to become direct-to-home ambassadors for Unilever brands and operates in 170 Samurdhi societies and has been instrumental in enhancing the livelihoods of over 3, 000 women and their families.

In the future, the competition will be changed to provide these women with the Diriya Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze membership. The challenge programme was established last year to engage women to actively participate for which they were rewarded with foreign tours and workshops.

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