One approach employed by Sri Lanka and Australia to pursue these objectives to more inclusive societies and economic growth is through partnerships with Sri Lankan civil society via the Direct Aid Program. Civil society organisations can be small, but their work can have a direct impact on excluded, marginalised and subsequently vulnerable individuals. Direct Aid Program provides funding and support for these organisations, and communities, to work to reduce poverty and work towards inclusive, sustainable development.
The Direct Aid Program works across a number of sectors, education, health, water and sanitation, environmental protection, women's empowerment and gender equality, supporting people with disabilities, economic livelihoods, food security and human rights. Sitting alongside Australia’s longer-term development strategies, the Direct Aid Program holds an important role in ensuring the engagement of civil society and communities.
Here we look at one example for the Direct Aid Program in Sri Lanka. In 2020, Australia funded the Shared Care Project through the Direct Aid Program. Implemented by Sri Lankan organisation, Equality-based Community Support and Training (ESCAT), Shared Care is focused on supporting young adults with disabilities and further extends that support to their carers.
The Shared Care approach is multi-pronged. The project is working with carers to ensure they can provide the best possible care for those they are supporting, while also working with young adults with disabilities to identify ways for them to build their independence. Even the smallest shift in responsibility from carer to those being cared for can result in positive change – with the young adult building a sense of achievement and contribution, while the workload of the carers is reduced.
Surahansi is 27 years old and lives with complex disabilities. As her primary carer, Surahansi’s mother, Nilanthi, has taken on many everyday tasks for Surahansi, such as helping her get dressed, cooking and washing up.
Since their involvement with the Shared Care Project this has changed. ESCAT worked with Surahansi and Nilanthi to prepare a tailored development plan for Surahansi that focused on her skills and capabilities – it identified what she could do as opposed to what she could not.
As a result, Surahansi now gets dressed independently and supports her mother with housework, relieving Nilanthi from some of the burden of caring and the associated unpaid workload.
Shared Care also provides vocational training to carers and, at the time of writing, had enabled 15 carers to start small businesses and earn extra income for their families. This is a further reflection of Australia and Sri Lanka’s shared commitment to more inclusive societies, inclusive economic growth and to reducing poverty and inequality.
Karagoda could be considered to have a number of vulnerabilities – she is a woman, she is a single mother and she is a carer of two sons with disabilities. As dentified in Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response Plan for Sri Lanka, delivered under Partnership for Recovery: Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response, the threat of poverty to excluded and marginalised groups in Sri Lanka, and globally, has increased as a result of the pandemic. This is particularly true for those with overlapping vulnerabilities (ethnic minorities, women, people with disabilities, rural populations, and those affected by social exclusion)
Amidst these challenges, Karagoda had to find a way to juggle her caring responsibilities and the need to earn an income to support her family. She began selling food from a small stand at the front of her home and she and her sons undertook the vocational training offered by Shared Care.
With this further support, Karagoda was able to grow her business and her eldest son also began earning an income through the production and sales of bags to local shops.
By working with civil society organisations such as ESCAT, Australia and Sri Lanka can enable change at an individual and household level. When such an approach is undertaken against the backdrop of a political commitment to inclusive public policy and a quest for genuine change, the objective of a more inclusive society becomes a step closer.
Shared Care also provides vocational training to carers and, at the time of writing, had enabled 15 carers to start small businesses and earn extra income for their families. This is a further reflection of Australia and Sri Lanka’s shared commitment to inclusive economic growth and to reducing poverty and inequality.