Biomass Group works with rural unemployed women to drive social and economic wellbeing of households
After the civil war ended in 2009, several Government programs were initiated to provide livelihood development in rural Sri Lanka, these programs reached very few women. The only livelihood option is agriculture and most smallholder farmers are very poor with monthly incomes of US$ 12-16 per person. Rural housewives lack specific skills and because economic opportunities in rural areas of Sri Lanka are limited, many migrate as domestic workers to the Middle East to exit poverty. Migration has untold consequences both personally and on the wellbeing of the children that they leave behind.
Biomass Group works in rural areas across the North and North Central and North Western provinces, including the war affected areas where we offer a credible alternative to empower poor rural women. We work in home gardens and large plantations promoting Gliricidia trees as live fence or as an intercrop.
Currently, we work with more than 50,000 smallholder farmer suppliers – 90 % are women – who have planted c2000 trees on their home gardens, thereby giving us access to 100 million Gliricidia trees. We have also conducted 700+ training programs on sustainable agricultural practices, labor rights, climate change, etc. – mainly to the female of the smallholder farmer household.
Managing a home garden is considered a ‘women-work’ which is now a new source of income generation. Even though culturally men are identified as the bread winners in families, by creating monetary value from women activities, we challenge traditional stereotypes. This enhances women capacities, empowers them and thereby ensures that their voice is heard in their families and communities and their role is socially, culturally and economically recognized.
Gender equality is a core value of Biomass Group.
In Sri Lanka, women workers are disadvantaged by the inequitable gender division in the labor market as well as by the “glass ceiling” that is a barrier to reaching the highest decision-making positions. In the private sector, only 6.1% of directors of boards of establishments registered in the Colombo Stock Exchange are women. More generally, the labor force participation rate of women in the labor force is 36.6% while the male participation rate is 74.5%.
In Biomass Group we believe in and promote gender equality and women empowerment. More than 40% of the staff currently are women and our objective is to reach a 50:50 ratio as soon as possible. This will be achieved and even exceeded with the recruitment of the Quality Assurance officer, a new position in our management structure responsible for organizing quality and supply at the Commune level, that will be opened for unemployed housewives.
We believe in inclusivity. We work with smallholder farmers and women to prove that inclusivity makes a strong business case too.