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Chairperson’s message

As I write this message the saying ‘when the going gets tough the tough get going’ comes to my mind. While the rest of the world was feeling the economic stress due to the COVID-19 lockdowns we in Sri Lanka has to bear the impact of several events from 2018- Constitutional Crisis (November 2018), Easter Attacks (April 2019), COVID Lockdowns (March 2020), Aragalaya (March 2022) that culminated in us declaring bankruptcy as a country in April 2022. I salute the businesses that have been able to withstand such tumultuous conditions for the last 4 years.

We at the Women’s Chamber felt that this was a time our services were needed the most and that as the National Chamber for Women in Business it was our duty help women to feel empowered thinking of new and smart ways of doing business and adapting successfully to the changing circumstances.

We believe that Women Entrepreneurs have the ability to help our economy to grow in a sustainable manner. In addition to the economic contribution, they build companies that are ethical and built on a set of values and they create diverse and inclusive working environments. This was the reason despite many challenges we decided to launch the WCIC Prathibhabhisheka Awards to boost the credibility and visibility of these Women in 2022. We are happy and proud to have given visibility to exceptional women entrepreneurs not only in Sri Lanka but also in the SAARC region. This year we also decided to include provincial awards and was amazed at the exceptional women we came across from the provinces. The combined Revenue of the women who applied for our competition was Rs 9.1 Bn and 21% of them were from the large and medium category and 79% were from the SME category. We also noted that while 62% of the applicants were from the Western/ North Western Province 38% from the other 7 provinces. The very comprehensive judging process also gave us a good insights and I would like to thank our judges for taking time to share their valuable thoughts which we have already started sharing with our applicants and also our policy advocacy team to champion policy initiatives.

While the awards focused on women who have registered businesses, we also worked hard to empower the SME women who are also significant contributors to our economy. The WCIC/IFC Digital Academy, funded by the Australian Government was one of the most impactful collaborations we had had to achieve this . I must congratulate the IFC team for the way they structured the program delivery on a virtual platform which gave us the ability to reach out to our provinces. WCIC team also added other areas we felt were needed such as Marketing, Supply Chain and Personal Branding. The program concluded in 2023 with 125 women successfully completing from the Western Province, Northern Province, Hambantota and Kurunegala. These women too are now part of the extended WCIC family and active participants of the two marketplaces we conduct annually. We continue to work with them to help them to scale and grow businesses. Some have ended up as our members and even a board member. Some have also sent applications to the WCIC Women Entrepreneur Awards and others are planning to do so in future.

We also actively engaged in Policy Advocacy and would like to thank the government for inviting WCIC for all policy deliberations which impact businesses. We also embarked on creating awareness and promoting best practices against Gender Based Violence and Harassment at Work Places, with the assistance of CIPE, our long term collaborating partner.

We also conducted our annual flagship event for women in business under the theme “Empowered Women, Empower Sri Lanka.” We had inspiring and powerful women leaders who motivated to do better. It was also very heartening to see the increased number of young women attending this event and learning from these role models.

WCIC also took our first steps in our strategy of creating WCIC Chapters in each province with the creating of a pilot project the WCIC Northern Entrepreneur Group with the assistance of ……………………….. With what we have experienced so far we are confident that we will be able to execute the chapter model successfully thereby ensuring that we are able to reach out and assist the provincial women more effectively in future.

All of the above work would not have been possible without our Sponsors, funding agencies the Empowered WCIC board, CEO and the Secretariat. I would like to acknowledge and thank each of them for their investment and hard work and for going out of their way to empower women.

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