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Colombo, Sri Lanka
June 24, 2021

U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Local Business Leaders Participate in First National Roundtable on Women’s Empowerment Through Economic Inclusion Hosted by WEConnect International

Media Inquiries: ealagaretnam@weconnectinternational.org Eroshan Alagaretnam, Regional Director- South Asia, WEConnect International

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA, JUNE 24, 2021WEConnect International hosted a first-of-its-kind roundtable yesterday with U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina Teplitz, the U.S. Department of State, and local business leaders to present research findings on the status of women-owned businesses (WOBs) in corporate value chains in Sri Lanka and why only a handful of women suppliers win procurement contracts with large buyers.

The research was compiled by Chrysalis Research for the WEConnect International “Women’s Empowerment Through Economic Inclusion” pilot project, funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. The results drew from an ecosystem study on WOBs in Sri Lanka and the key survey findings presented at the roundtable included:

  • Women in Sri Lanka own approximately 253,000 or 25% of all private businesses, and yet large corporations find it difficult to identify and buy from women suppliers
  • 81% of the buyers have a very limited understanding of supplier diversity and inclusion (SD&I) or gender inclusive sourcing
  • Less than 10% of the WOBs have a contract with corporate buyers
  • Nearly 40% of the WOBs face challenges in responding to procurement opportunities
  • WOBs struggle to articulate their value proposition and often face language barriers
  • Less than 10% of the WOBs export their products, thereby restricting their grow potential
  • Compared to men, women in Sri Lanka are more likely to face both institutional and sociocultural barriers that limit their access to finance, collateral assets, markets, and business information and training
  • Most WOBs are not members of influential business associations or networks which limits their access to large buyers

“It’s the perfect time–as supply chains are reestablished–to open the door to greater inclusivity among participating businesses, especially if we can set aside our preconceived and often inaccurate notions of who makes a successful and reliable supply chain partner,” said Ambassador Teplitz.

The Women’s Empowerment through Economic Inclusion pilot project in the Indo-Pacific included not only Sri Lanka, but also India, Bangladesh and the Maldives.

“WEConnect International’s first step was to commission research to identify key market linkages, challenges, needs and capacity of WOBs, corporations and other key stakeholders in Sri Lanka,” said Eroshan Alagaretnam, Regional Director–South Asia, WEConnect International.

The research was conducted over a 12-week period and the full report will be published in July 2021. WEConnect International will now implement the project through local and regional business training, networking, and other means of support for women-owned SMEs in Sri Lanka in an effort to promote sustainable development and gender equity.

“Through this three-year project, WEConnect International will work with partners to create a more seamless integration of Sri Lankan certified women’s business enterprises into corporate, multilateral and government value chains as a win-win solution,” said Elizabeth A. Vazquez, CEO and Co-Founder of WEConnect International, a global non-profit that helps women-owned businesses compete in the global marketplace through capacity development and connections to large buyers seeking women suppliers.

“WEConnect International’s work is so exciting because it addresses a major market failure,” said Laura Stone, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, U.S. State Department. “Supporting women’s economic advancement is good business and critical for national economic growth”

Roundtable participants included world leaders in gender inclusive sourcing such as IBM, Marriott International, Citi, Trane Technology, DELL and JP Morgan. Local businesses that participated in the Roundtable included Brandix Apparel Limited, Dialog Axiata PLC, DFCC bank, John Keells Holdings PLC, Hemas Holdings PLC, HNB, Jetwing Hotels and many others.

About WEConnect International

WEConnect International is a member-led, global non-profit that brings motivated, large corporate, multilateral and government buyers together with women-owned suppliers around the world. It works with over 125 multinational buyers, with over $1 trillion in combined annual purchasing power, that have committed to sourcing more products and services from women-owned businesses based in over 125 countries. WEConnect International identifies, educates, registers and certifies women’s business enterprises based outside of the U.S. that are at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by one or more women. For more information, visit: www.WEConnectInternational.org.

For more information or media interviews, please contact, Rebecca Pearson, Chief Marketing Officer, at rpearson@weconnectinternational.org or +1-703-297-5113. 

For corporate membership, contact Michael Tobolski, VP of Member Development, mtobolski@weconnectinternational.org, or online at  https://weconnectinternational.org/en/corporate-membership/membership-opportunities.

For details on Registering Your Women-Owned Business or becoming a certified Women Business Enterprise, please contact Melanie Oliver at registration@weconnectinternational.org