WEConnect International recently hosted an all-day event with an investment readiness and business resilience training, a Supplier Diversity & Inclusion Roundtable, and a corporate matchmaking session for 100+ women business owners in Sri Lanka. The special event was part of the “Women’s Empowerment Through Economic Inclusion” project funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung provided the keynote address to an audience of women business owners and local and multinational corporations.
“The United States is a proud supporter of WEConnect International and its work in Sri Lanka,” noted Ambassador Chung. “We are inspired by its mission to create a world in which women have the same opportunities as men to build and run a business, and to create wealth and sustainable prosperity for their communities and the country.”
The event was designed to address an urgent need to support women-owned businesses as they deal with the negative impact of the current economic and political downturn. The capacity-building training session included topics such as pricing strategy to stay competitive, connecting with financial institutions for low-interest loans, basic business financials for growth, digital marketing for local and regional trade, and leveraging the WEConnect International network to partner with women business owners in other countries, such as India.
The women business owners represented a variety of industries including professional services, manufacturing, IT and agriculture sectors, and met with dozens of locally-based corporations to discuss opportunities for their businesses and learn how to interact with and market their solutions to potential buyers. The women business owners also networked with each other and leveraged the community to share and to learn about new ways to grow their businesses.
The Roundtable on Supplier Diversity & Inclusion was hosted for 30+ corporate attendees to increase their awareness of gender-inclusive sourcing prior to the matchmaking session with the women business owners, and the participants represented corporations such as Aitken Spences, Hayleys, Ceylon Biscuits Limited, Commercial Bank, HNB and Maliban.
“Women business owners in Sri Lanka are still recovering from the negative effects of the pandemic and now must contend with the economic crisis and political turmoil,” stated Elizabeth A. Vazquez, CEO and Co-Founder, WEConnect International. “It is imperative that we all increase our support for what the women say they need to keep their businesses open and their teams employed, and today’s event is a first step in providing much-needed business resilience training. I am grateful to the corporations that participated, and anticipate that they will benefit from their connections with these growth-oriented women-owned businesses in the near future.”
The U.S.-funded Women’s Empowerment Through Economic Inclusion includes programs in Sri Lanka and also India, Bangladesh and the Maldives. It focuses on generating long-term opportunities for women-owned businesses to connect and conduct business with large buyers, including local and multinational corporations, government agencies and non-profit and non-governmental organizations. To date, 615 women-owned businesses have participated in capacity-building training sessions and networking with dozens of corporations, many of whom have committed to sourcing more from women-owned businesses. The program is just one component of the longstanding partnership between the American and Sri Lankan people to support Sri Lanka’s development journey and promote economic sustainability. In addition to ongoing projects like the Women’s Empowerment Through Economic Inclusion initiative, the United States has announced more than $179 million in new assistance to Sri Lanka this year, including nearly $32 million in new humanitarian and technical assistance since June alone.
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