country sri lanka oxfam


Quick facts

  • 20 million people
  • 0.7% living on less than USD $1.90 / day

It is nearly a decade since the 26 year long civil war in Sri Lanka ended. Still, many of the root causes of the conflict remain.

Inequality and discrimination is widespread, while low income levels in most parts of the country mean people struggle with high food prices. Some parts of Sri Lanka continue to be vulnerable to natural disasters such as floods and drought. For many, this has created an environment of increased economic vulnerability, particularly for those depending on agriculture and farming to make a living.

The tough conditions have led to many of Sri Lanka’s poorest people entering into debt to survive. It is not uncommon for families to have limited access to any form of sustainable livelihood. There is a vital need in Sri Lanka to empower discriminated women and men so they can engage with government to obtain their rights.

Key areas of work

Economic Justice, Gender Justice, Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Risk Reduction

One story of change


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Sinthuja is one of the leading handloom entrepreneurs in her district. Photo: Oxfam Sri Lanka

Nine years after the civil war in Sri Lanka, poverty and inequality in rural areas remains high. Women’s participation in the rural economy remains particularly low. The SUNRISE Project (2015-19) is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and aims to promote inclusive economic growth.

The project develops inclusive and feasible business models in the handloom, fruits and vegetables, and spice sectors in cooperation and consultation with individuals, the private sector and business community. Applying a market systems approach, SUNRISE supports women entrepreneurs in building their business acumen, capacity and competitiveness.

In the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, the project has supported 18 enterprises within the handloom sector, including Sinthu Handloom, run by Sinthuja (pictured above). Before participating in the project Sinthuja was running her business without an understanding of production costs and profit margins. The average monthly sales turnover was LKR182,000 (AUD$1,544). After participating in the project and improving her business management and entrepreneurship skills, Sinthuja now maintains records of her business operations and has implemented a business plan. Sinthuja received on-the-job training from a handloom technical expert from the University of Moratuwa. After improving the quality of her products, Sinthuja was able to sign a purchasing agreement with private sector export company Rice and Carry Pvt Ltd, who are now a permanent purchaser. Sinthuja has also been able to participate in four handloom exhibitions, showcasing products and securing new orders. Sinthuja has diversified her product range and recruited two new permanent employees. As a result, the business is now reporting a monthly turnover ofLKR500,000 (AUD$4,242). Sinthuja is one of the leading handloom entrepreneurs in her district, sharing her experience and learning with other women and encouraging them to engage in micro-economic initiatives

Key projects

Sustaining and Nurturing Rural Agro-Industrial Social Enterprises (SUNRISE)

Oxfam is working to strengthen opportunities for women and men in Sri Lanka to earn an income from value chains including spices, fruits and vegetables, and handlooms. The four year project (2015-2019) is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP). Thanks to ANCP, Oxfam is able to enhance employment opportunities for women, strengthen value chains and address gender imbalances.

Promoting Resilience through Index Insurance in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh

Oxfam Australia is working to strengthen the resilience of poor and vulnerable farmers, especially women; and engage private sector and international research institutes for sustainability, innovation and knowledge management on weather index insurance. This two year project (2017-2019) is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

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