Remarkable women across Sri Lanka, who have made a positive difference in their communities were felicitated at the fourth annual Professional and Career Women Awards organized by Women in Management. Four prominent women entrepreneurs who have been empowered by Coca-Cola’s 5by20 initiative received awards at the ceremony. Coca-Cola’s 5by20 initiative is part of the company’s strategy to promote long-term sustainable growth by economically empowering five million women entrepreneurs across the company’s value chain by 2020. K. P. Apsara Kulasiri, W. A. F. Rizwana, E. Eresha Pushpakumari and P. Nandawathi from the 5by20 programme were presented with the awards in recognition of their achievements and progress as entrepreneurs. The four award-winners’ entrepreneurial skills have been nurtured by Coca-Cola’s 5by20 initiative and these breakthrough women are now running successful businesses of their own which have not only raised their standard of living, but have provided employment to others. These women are leaders within their communities and are also inspirational role models in their own right.
In Sri Lanka, the 5by20 initiative is conducted in partnership with Women In Management (WIM) and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in the form of training programmes. Women in Management is dedicated to ensuring the success of women and strives to further the professional development of entrepreneurial women through educational and training opportunities, and through the exchange of knowledge and experiences.
All four of Coca-Cola’s 5by20 winners who were felicitated at the awards have inspirational stories to recount and their success is a result of hard work and determination coupled with strong support from Coca-Cola’s 5by20 programme. K. P. Apsara Kulasiri (Mihi & Mihi Creations - Handy Craft) from Ampara, was identified at a Coca-Cola 5by20 programme conducted by WIM. She was creating small souvenirs using coconut shells, but her packaging and displays were not attractive. After imparting the necessary business, finance and marketing skills to her through the 5by20 programme, Apsara has begun exporting her own creations and is a self-made entrepreneur. She was honoured to have received an award for her success at the Professional and Career Women Awards.
W. A. F. Rizwana, a single mother, learnt sewing to support her daughter and herself. Hearing of a teaching vacancy in the village school, the O/L educated enterprising lady enrolled for a three-month course in early childhood education and began teaching at the school. Today, she is not only a respected teacher, but also a popular tailor in the village and a clear inspiration to other women. Another inspirational personality, E. Eresha Pushpakumari from Kandy approached the Coca-Cola 5by20 team with batik samples which were of high quality, but she lacked knowledge about selling strategies. After training with the Coca-Cola’s 5by20 initiative, she and her husband progressed to become successful entrepreneurs who now sell their products in bulk to reputed shops. They are working towards fulfilling their dream of building a fully-fledged workshop.
The last awardee, P. Nandawathi from Agunakolapallasa, Hambantota, is a mother of four girls who lost her husband prematurely. Faced with the prospect of providing for her family as the lone bread-winner, she started a business doing what she knew best - cooking. She started selling string hoppers and traditional Sri Lankan foods. Over time, she branded her products under the tag ‘Kaum Amma’, as she was known to all in the village. Soon, she was receiving orders from local and overseas customers. She was even once invited to Singapore to cook Sri Lankan traditional food. She became so successful that she constructed houses and gifted them to her four daughters when they got married.
The Coca-Cola’s 5by20 initiative is forging strongly ahead towards reaching its mission of touching five million women and it is clear to see by the progress made by these women who have been empowered by the programme, that the benefits of the initiative are far-reaching. Additionally, Coca-Cola also runs the retailer programme in Sri Lanka which strives to provide training to retailers employed in traditional trade (kirana or mom & pop retail outlets) across South Asia.
The 5by20 programme is customized to suit the training needs of different women and serves a larger societal need by empowering women and promoting inclusivity. By providing access to business skills, financial services, assets and a support network of peers and mentors, 5by20 helps women achieve their entrepreneurial and personal dreams, whilst simultaneously creating thriving and sustainable communities. In Sri Lanka, 5by20 is conducted island-wide in Trincomalee, Panama, Anuradhapura, Mullaitivu, Polonnaruwa, Batticaloa, Hambantota, Negombo, Kilinochchi and Colombo.