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.