By Hiruni Dabarera
Women in Management (WIM) in association with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) held the Professional and Career Women Awards 2016 for the sixth consecutive year at Kingsbury last week amidst many parliamentarians, diplomats and professionals in business and government services.
Under this year’s theme of ‘Taking Sri Lankan women to the world’, the ceremony awarded close to 100 women who have played influential roles in their careers from diverse sectors.
“Through this award ceremony my objective is to find women who can lead other women and award them so that they can impact a larger percentage of young girls to strive for their potentials and contribute towards our economy,” expressed WIM founder and Chairperson Sulochana Segera.
“Over the last five years WIM has awarded close to 500 women and if at least 90% of these award winners can lead other women, then my attempts would prove successful. I would like to make a formal plea to all the award winners today: Please, use your award to empower other women like you,” Segera further stated.
Speaking to the gathering Women and Child Affairs Minister Chandrani Bandara stressed how empowerment of women can help reduce violence enforced on women and children. “Even though according to media the violence on women has quite increased, it is important to note how women report more cases today owing to broader awareness. The Ministry carries out awareness programs among women who are economically challenged and regular meetings are held where they are encouraged to discuss their issues with the officials,” she said.
The Minister believes that it is necessary to empower these women financially as they are prone to violence mostly due to their complete financial dependency on their husbands. Through economic enforcement programs they are guided to earn a supplementary income so that their husbands will respect them as a result of understanding their significant role in a family and it will also give them the independence to fight against violence.
Petroleum and Petroleum Gas Deputy Minister Anoma Gamage was invited to do a brief presentation on how women leadership in parliament can impact women in the country. According to her currently there are only 13 female representatives in the parliament. “Despite educational qualifications and practical etiquettes, women are held back from joining politics owing to culture. Since, women are the primary caretakers in a family, they face barriers when running for elections,” the Minister expressed.
She elaborated how even after being elected to the parliament women are given lesser positions to hold and how the society is more focused on the private lives than the work they do. “Following the hundred day program all female parliamentarians were given either a minister or a deputy minister position. The Government hopes to increase female representation in politics up to 25% during the next elections,” she shared.
“Female labour participation is only 55% globally and women still continue to earn 10-30% less than men. Businesses started by women have a credit gap of $ 300 billion in a global level,” emphasised IFC Country Manager for Sri Lanka and Maldives Ameena Arif who also addressed the gathering.
“Even though Sri Lanka is high in statistics in parity in education, there are only about 35% women employed in the labour force. Out of the companies listed in the Colombo Stock Exchange only 6% have women directors. Globally it is a little better as it stands at 12%. Gender parity is quite significant as it is a core development policy and a business imperative. We feel privileged to partner with WIM in this regard,” she added. IFC’s work with WIM goes beyond the award ceremony and they carry out rural women empowerment programs in the North and East provinces.
The Award Ceremony awarded both silver and gold winners from diverse sectors namely, Media and Communications, Insurance, Advertising, Legal, Marketing, Architecture, Hospitality, IT, Networking, Banking and Finance, Education, Arts and Aesthetic, Sports and Administration and Management. The highlight of the night was when Sri Lanka’s first woman climber of Mount Everest Jayanthi Kuru Utumpala won the gold award from the trail blazers category. Woman Entrepreneur of the Year small category was won by Samanthi Ranathunga who is the Managing Director at Lili Cheese Ltd. while the same award for the medium category was awarded to Udeni Nadeera, CEO and Managing Director at Liyark Industries Ltd. Batticaloa.
The Upcoming Leader of the Year was awarded to Sandaru Priyanwada Chandrasiri who was ranked 41st in the Kurunegala district form GCE AL’s Arts stream despite being visually impaired and is at present a music student at the Visual and Performing Arts University.
The judges’ award was presented to Dr. Hiranthi Wijemanne in recognition of her international representation of Sri Lanka at the UN in the area of child welfare while the WIM member of the year was won by Kushlani Perera.