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Supporting Economic Resilience through Increased Livelihoods in Sri Lanka
Published 08/03/2022 by Global Communities
By Nagarajah Sathyaruban and Amila Jayamaha
In Sri Lanka’s Mullaitivu district, a lack of job opportunities and career guidance avenues has contributed to a high youth unemployment ratio. For local youth, this has reinforced negative stereotyping, increased the risk of substance abuse and led to a sense of isolation and disillusionment, with ethnicity seen as a factor affecting government assistance.
With support from the Social Cohesion and Reconciliation (SCORE) Activity, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Global Communities, local civil society organization Community Development Organization (CDO) offered a solution.
By providing basic business skills training and livelihoods development opportunities framed by peace-building, CDO engaged youth as change agents for their own positive development and that of their communities’ in line with USAID’s Positive Youth Development (PYD) Framework.
PROMOTING YOUTH LEADERSHIP THROUGH INTER-ETHNIC INTERACTION
In March 2022, CDO organized a youth camp in Anuradhapura for 72 youth representing diverse ethnic and religious communities from SCORE targeted districts in the Uva, Eastern and Central Provinces. Under the theme “Unity is our Strength,” participants learned to work collaboratively across social, regional and gender strata, developing and demonstrating critical thinking skills.
The camp combined experiential learning with games and other activities that encouraged conversation about issues confronting youth in Sri Lanka, including their role in building social capital and fostering reconciliation. Participants also learned about the resources available to them through government, private sector and other donor programs such as USAID’s YouLead project.
“For me, this youth camp was one of the most memorable experiences of my life,” said S. Haron Shankar, a participant from Vavuniya. “It was my first time socializing with Sinhalese and Muslim youths. I was able to grow my network and learned how to embrace our similarities as well as differences.”
As a follow-on, in April and May, 30 participants based in Mullaitivu received in-kind support from SCORE via CDO and the Department of Manpower and Employment — a government stakeholder — to start their own businesses. This intervention, with active involvement by the Department of Manpower, also led to a change in mindset among youth who had previously felt excluded from or unable to access government stakeholders and assistance programs. With CDO and the Department of Manpower and Employment offering regular check-ins and technical assistance, selected participants are now proactively engaging with government stakeholders and benefiting from new opportunities.
For youth like Pushpanathan Sinthujan and Dhanujan Kristika, this has contributed to increased economic resilience at a time when Sri Lanka’s economic crisis is placing vulnerable and marginalized communities at further risk.
HATCHING NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS
Sinthujan, 23, is from Udayarkaddu, Mullaitivu. His family engages in paddy cultivation, but the income is not enough to meet their daily needs. To help bring in supplementary income, Sinthujan began raising chickens using a rigifoam box as a makeshift incubator. In looking for ways to grow his business, he joined CDO’s livelihoods program.
After participating in the program’s youth camp, Sinthujan gained new tools and knowledge to establish his livelihood and grew in confidence as an individual and business owner.
Additionally, in April 2022, SCORE — through CDO and the Department of Manpower — provided Sinthujan with an incubator, which has significantly raised his income. He has increased production from 30 chicks to 125-150 chicks in one cycle.
“In the present economic crisis, it is a huge support in looking after my family, and it also partly fulfills the requirement of chicks for local poultry farmers in my area,” Sinthujan said of the new incubator.
Drawing from trainings in the livelihoods program and youth camp, as well as shared experiences with other participants, Sinthujan is now looking to expand his business and support other poultry farmers in the area.
STRENGTHENING WOMEN’S BUSINESS SKILLS & RESOURCES
In 2017, Dhanujan Kristika and her husband were resettled in Oddusuddan following displacement due to the civil war. Initially, they were unemployed but later ventured into small businesses including poultry farming and tailoring.
When floods destroyed the poultry farm and Kristika lost her sewing machine and other belongings in a fire, she faced immense hardships in continuing her livelihood. However, with assistance from the Mullaitivu Divisional Secretary Office, she was able to re-establish her sewing business and later expand it to include three sewing machines, providing employment to two women.
Through joining the CDO youth program, Kristika benefited from a series of skill-building trainings related to starting a business and received a professional sewing machine from SCORE through CDO and the Department of Manpower. She now has a new circle of friends and informal peer support group comprised of young people from different provinces and life experiences who all share similar goals for growth.
Kristika continues to work proactively to expand her business, including marketing products — an aspect she did not consider prior to joining CDO’s youth program. She remains motivated not only due to family support but also because of the livelihood opportunities her growing business offers for other women in her community.
This success story is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of Global Communities and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.