In the words of Selvasenthan Uthayaleaga: “I became an entrepreneur to ensure financial stability for my family”


Photo: UN Women Sri Lanka/Ruvin De Silva
Entrepreneur Selvasenthan Uthayaleaga, at her home in Thoddiyadi in Mullaitivu District, Sri Lanka. Photo: UN Women Sri Lanka/Ruvin De Silva

Selvasenthan Uthayaleaga, 46, is an entrepreneur from Thoddiyadi, a small village in the Mullaitivu District in Sri Lanka. UN Women’s project ‘Empowering Women in Crisis’ funded by the Government of Japan provides humanitarian assistance for women most affected by Sri Lanka’s socioeconomic crisis. Through the project, Uthayaleaga and over 600 other women-led micro-enterprises have received support to strengthen their business resilience and livelihoods.


I run a family business that is devoted to producing traditional and nutritional food items. We make nutrient-rich food products using different types of flour and homemade coffee powder. I infuse the coffee blend with coriander seeds, dried ginger, and cumin, all known for their medicinal properties. Our goal is to offer everyday food products packed with vitamins and proteins, encouraging people to opt for healthier choices.

I know my business is successful, not just from our increasing profits and revenues, but also from the positive feedback we receive from customers who praise our products for being healthy, hygienic and affordable.

I live with my husband and our two children. During the conflict, my husband lost an arm and was paralyzed in one leg. Because of this, we have had a lot of medical expenses. When the pandemic hit, he lost his job and our financial challenges mounted. I took the leap into entrepreneurship to ensure financial stability for my family and to encourage healthy eating habits in our community.

Photo: UN Women Sri Lanka/Ruvin De Silva
Uthayaleaga with her husband and two children outside their home Thoddiyadi. Photo: UN Women Sri Lanka/Ruvin De Silva

However, with the economic crisis, we didn’t have access to raw materials, and we had to reduce prices to keep the business going. It was during this time that I got the opportunity to take part in UN Women’s training. The knowledge they offered was invaluable, as we learned about pricing strategies, advertising and bookkeeping.

Our family business operates in the true sense of the word—I cook the food items, my husband manages distribution and advertising while the children handle the accounts. This is great for me as a mother, because the children are learning these concepts at a young age, and they will empower them to stand on their own two feet in the future. When faced with uncertain times, we must learn to take matters to our own hands, and the UN Women trainings were a beacon of hope that contributed to our resilience.

I envision transforming our business into a company, offering employment opportunities for others. It's not an unattainable goal; it's the light at the end of the tunnel for families like mine. Resorting to traditional, ancient and organic practices of consumption, I am already promoting the benefits of natural and self-sufficient foods that can easily be grown and nurtured in our own homes.

My journey is about fortitude, innovation, and an unwavering belief in the healing power of traditional food. Sometimes, it feels as though life here is unlivable, but we are grateful for the support we receive in whatever form it comes in. I hope that others in our country also benefit from these wins.”.

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“I became an entrepreneur to ensure financial stability for my family” - Selvasenthan Uthayaleaga