Building networks to advance women’s economic empowerment in Sri Lanka

Will Wright
February 21, 2022

The Australian and Sri Lankan governments recognise  the importance of gender equality and have implemented a range of policies and  programs aimed at accelerating women’s economic empowerment.

Despite impressive education outcomes among girls  and women in Sri Lanka, women’s economic outcomes lag behind those of men.  Crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic have disproportionately affected women,  as many of them engage in informal work, where it is difficult to social  distance and social protection is not available.

The Australian Government-supported project Building Better Networks for Gendered  Economic Development seeks to tackle these challenges by establishing a  new cadre of experts within public, private and non-government organisations  in Sri Lanka who specialise in gendered economic empowerment. The two-year  project is establishing a gender policy dialogue, through in-person and  virtual policy forums, online training, research collaborations and a study  tour to Australia. These activities will provide an opportunity to share best  practices and consider policy ideas, with a focus on partnership building. The  project also supports women’s  economic empowerment and labour-force participation in Sri Lanka through  research, policy recommendations and capacity-building initiatives.

Building Better Networks for Gendered  Economic Development is led by the Australian APEC Study  Centre and the Centre for International Development at RMIT University. The  project is supported by the Australian High Commission to Sri Lanka and  Maldives through a Knowledge and Linkages for an Inclusive Economy (KLIE)  grant. The KLIE grant mechanism  facilitates partnerships and relationships between Sri Lankan and Australian  government agencies, research institutions, civil society and professional networks. 

Director of the Australian APEC Study Centre at RMIT  University, Dr Craig Emerson, said: “As the world begins its economic  recovery from COVID-19, it is more important than ever to address gender  inequalities and RMIT is the ideal partner to support this initiative through  its regional networks, expertise and gender equality, disability and social  inclusion experience.”

Building Better Networks for Gendered  Economic Development supports the Partnerships for  Recovery: Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response by addressing barriers to increasing women’s  economic empowerment, seeking to prevent violence against women and promoting  respect for women. It builds on women empowerment activities led by the  Australian High Commission in Sri Lanka and also supports Sri Lankan and  Australian organisations both within and between Australia and Sri Lanka, including  the World in Work program.

Since  the launch of KLIE in 2018, this grant mechanism has supported nine  partnerships with a total of more than A$2.5 million.