The Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York co-hosted an event to mark Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, today (18 November), in collaboration with  Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization. The event was held at the Delegates’ Dining Room at the UN Headquarters. Ambassador Sabarullah Khan, Deputy Permanent Representative and Chargé d’ Affaires a.i. delivered opening  remarks. The full text of the remarks follows:

 

Opening ceremony of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day event

18th November 2016, 8.45 a.m., Delegates’ Dining Room

Remarks by Ambassador Sabarullah Khan

Deputy Permanent Representative and Chargé d’ Affaires a.i.

 

Ms. Wendy Diamond, Founder, Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization (WEDO), Distinguished participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to make these brief remarks at this year’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Day event.  I am equally happy that the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations was able to partner with WEDO to organize this important event.

Sri Lanka attaches great importance to Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality. Incidentally, given the excitement of possibilities that swept this nation last week, Sri Lanka in fact, produced the first woman prime minister in the world in 1960 and in 1994, we also had a woman president.

Therefore when Ms. Wendy Diamond, Founder of WEDO approached us to seek our support to organize this event, we were more than willing to do so.

We welcome the designation of November 19 as Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, and recognize with appreciation the work of WEDO in this regard.

We commend the commitment of WEDO in bringing together inspiring women leaders who are able to amplify the message of expanding businesses with social-good initiatives, in communities around the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As the global community seeks to implement the 2015 sustainable development agenda, there is no better time to focus our attention on the pivotal role played by women in development, than right now. Women’s empowerment and the realization of women’s rights in achieving sustainable development has increasingly been recognized in recent decades. This recognition has been epitomized by Goal 5 and relevant targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Certainly, in order to promote and support women’s entrepreneurship, it is imperative to develop and implement policies and programmes at national level. It is important to provide opportunities to new women entrepreneurs and to implement policies that would lead to the expansion of women- owned microenterprises and SMEs.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In Sri Lanka, women have been an important partner in our nation’s development. Their contribution to the development of the country has been critical, and women played a substantial role in Sri Lanka’s overall success in achieving the MDGs. Women make up more than half the population of Sri Lanka (52%). Women are the backbone of our nation’s economy, and contribute significantly to the wellbeing of our society.

As you may know Sri Lanka has emerged from a brutal civil conflict that lasted nearly thirty years. The government is now particularly concerned about improving the situation of women affected by the conflict including focusing on female headed households which now makes up 23% of the total female population.

To that end, the government established the Organization for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) responsible for the formulation and coordinating the implementation of the policies and programs to build national unity and reconciliation. ONUR has developed intervention  programs on language, education, political dialogue for reconciliation, setting up of a grievance unit and empowering women, issuance of Certificate of Absence’ for families of missing persons and facilitating comprehensive development planning.

We have set up programs of low interest loans for women living in areas of former conflict to enable them to obtain a financial identity. Additionally a Task force has been appointed to work on reconciliation mechanisms in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and a coordinated effort has been adopted with the participation of relevant stakeholders to address the unattended gaps in the services and opportunities available to war affected women.

We have also introduced policies and measures to ensure an enabling environment for gender equality and the empowerment of women in the transition from MDGs to SDGs.

Our Ministry of Women and Child Affairs is currently developing an Action Plan to incorporate the 12 critical areas of the Beijing Plan of Action.  The action plan is being developed based on the SDG goals, targets and indicators.  

Sri Lanka has also revamped the Gender Focal Points established in the line Ministries. The main function of the Focal points is to mainstream gender in their respective Ministries. Committees are also being established under the guidance of the Gender Focal Points to address work place harassment including sexual harassment.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs has also conducted gender mainstreaming programs for the officers of the nine Provincial Councils (the second tier in the administrative structure) with special emphasis on gender budgeting, collection of gender disaggregated data, promoting women’s participation in politics and on measures to overcome stereotyping.  

Importantly, the government has paid more attention to women’s entrepreneurship development by providing easy access to credit, technology business knowledge and markets. 

The Ministry of Education has introduced a Technology stream for Advance level students including girls which enables them to find lucrative jobs in the labor market. The Ministry of Vocational training has expanded its scope on training by introducing courses which cater to the market demand.

Earlier this year on a government directive, 25 % of all allocations to line Ministries, Provincial Councils and District Secretaries must be utilized for rural economic development for women’s economic enhancement programs.  The government allocated Rs. 100 million for livelihood activities of female heads of households in 2016.

Indeed, events such as these which seeks to empower women and girls all over the world by promoting entrepreneurship and generating a movement in support of women in business globally, augur well for the future of our world. The enormous efforts of civil society and the private sector serve to complement most effectively the work of governments across the globe. 

I once again thank WEDO for organizing this important event and extend a warm welcome to all distinguished participants. I wish you a energizing and fruitful morning at this forum.

Thank you.  

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