In the words of Gnanasegaram Ranjithakaladevi: “It brings much joy when you see your childhood hobby becoming your source of income”
Authors: Zafran Packeerally and Rohana*
Gnanasegaram Rangithakaladevi, 41, makes products from palmyra in Mannar District, Northern Province of Sri Lanka. She recently attended entrepreneurship training given by UN Women as part of a project, Empowering Communities to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls in Mannar, funded by the Government of Australia. UN Women carries out the project jointly with United Nations Children’s Fund and United Nations Population Fund. The project supports over 90 women entrepreneurs in Mannar to become economically independent and thus less vulnerable to violence.
I started palmyra weaving during my childhood. It brings much joy when you see your childhood hobby becoming your source of income when you are an adult.
Through my business Kala Palmyrah Products, I manufacture a wide range of items that are marketed around the island through my network of contacts. I was able to expand my network and market my items through the knowledge I gained from this (UN Women) programme. I even receive orders from Colombo now.
At first, I was doing this for the sake of doing it. I didn’t have any idea about business, nor did I know how to calculate costs. Thanks to this training, I am now capable of managing a business. I also learned how to deal with adversity and go forward in life.
I am a mother of two daughters, and I feed my family with the earnings from my business. My husband does labourer work. The income is insufficient to support a family. This business keeps my family alive.
When we were growing up, my father was an alcoholic. It disturbed our lives as well. As a result, I was unable to learn this trade properly, until now. That is not something I want to happen to my children. I encourage them to pursue this trade.
If my two daughters master this trade, they will not have to rely on anyone. I constantly encourage them to learn palmyra weaving or any other skill so that they can be self-sufficient and economically independent. Women should not rely on others. They should always consider women to be equal to men.”
* UN Women commissioned Zafran Packeerally and Rohana, both of The Picture House, a creative agency in Colombo, to do the text and photos for this story.