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news | January 17, 2018 | Sri Lanka | Development

Women as agents of change: How women-led civil society organisations support their communities for poverty reduction and improved governance

Members of the Korakallimadu Women Rural Development Society (WRDS) © ACTED Sri Lanka, 2018

Sri Lanka has a long history of community-based Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) formed to identify and address shared problems. Among them, Women Rural Development Societies (WRDS) are essential organisations for the development of vulnerable areas in Sri Lanka. Women rural development societies pave the way for inclusive economic and social development. They provide loans to society members to support their livelihoods, engage in community work (for example, cleaning public building to avoid the spread of dengue during the rainy season) and support vulnerable society members with income-generating training.

Civil Society Organisations, powerful actors in local governance

ACTED and its partner Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA) have been implementing since December 2015 an EU-funded project in Batticaloa, Moneragala and Mullaitivu that aims to assist CSOs in improving their organisational and operational functions to implement their mandate, voice community needs and become meaningful actors in local development processes. ACTED is striving to strengthen the capacity of CSOs as agents of development to become active participants in defining and implementing poverty reduction and sustainable development strategies. To achieve this, a key component of the project was to conduct organisational development and proposal writing training for 60 CSOs to strengthen their capacities.

Capacity-building training to strengthen the abilities of CSOs

Thanesha and Nathi are the secretaries of two WRDSs located in remote areas of Batticaloa district. In order to conduct their activities in the most efficient manner, they decided to participate in ACTED’s project, to reinforce their societies’ organisational capacities. Both women reflected positively when asked about the organisational development training they benefited from through the project. “The training had a great impact on our society”, says Thanesha. After the training, her WRDS has a much better organisation of administrative work. They also started a proper system for documenting and filing their activities. According to Nathi, the external relations training provided her and other members of the society with the motivation to coordinate with governmental departments. Indeed, it boosted their confidence to interact with government officials from various departments, which in turn enables them to voice their community’s needs. As a result, members of the society have developed strong linkages with government stakeholders.

Women leaders of CSOs: Unwavering frontline agents of change

Thanesha and Nathi’s WRDSs are only two examples of the myriad of women-led CSOs in Sri Lanka. Their support to their communities is indispensable and their activities have the potential to restore the social fabric of the country, while contributing to local development and governance. Thanks to the training provided through ACTED’s project, target CSOs in Batticaloa, Mullaithivu and Moneragala districts have strengthened their ability to drive their own grassroots development process and contribute to a more equitable, democratic and peaceful Sri Lankan society. “The training has built our society’s capacity. It benefits not only us, but also the whole community”, Thanesha concludes. Nathi always wanted to support other women, in order to make their lives easier. “I want to provide guidance to other women, and be a role model for the members of my community”, she adds.