One the projects we set up for Palmera during our time in Sri Lanka was the establishment of two women’s groups to sell products made from the leaves of the palmyra tree (different spelling, same tree). The palmyra tree is commonly found across the North of Sri Lanka and its leaves are dried and used to make everything from baskets, to roofing, to laptop cases.
Our project was run by a local organisation called FOSDOO and it provided 35 women with business training and connected them to other businesses and organisations through which they could sell their goods.
The women in this project had already been trained on how to make palmyra products, they just didn’t have any materials or customer to sell them to. This was a common issue we saw in Sri Lanka, where people had been trained in a skill but could not afford or didn’t know how to turn that into a business which could earn them a regular income.
Some of the women in this project earned less than $1.50 per day and most of them undertook labouring and agricultural work in order to make a living. These are hard physical jobs and often required the women to be away from their homes and children. Palmyra production can be done at home or close to home so that the women can generate an income and care for their children to make sure that they are safe.
Through this project both women’s groups saw an increase in their income from palmyra production and some of the women were even able to work on it full time as it provided enough income.
On one of our trips to visit the project a woman called Subashini told us that “this project has transformed my life, it has helped me to gradually come out from darkness. I get an exposure to different views, views of other people and it helps me to broaden my thinking and increase my confidence level.” It shows how a small bit of assistance can make a huge difference in someone’s life.