Cablegate: S/Gwi Project Proposals for Sri Lanka and the Maldives

DE RUEHLM #0126/01 0530319
R 220319Z FEB 10




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) Summary. Post carefully reviewed 59 proposals for S/GWI
funding, and after discussing country priorities, the committee
selected the strongest five proposals: four are for Sri Lanka, and
one is for the Maldives. The proposed projects cover key issues
such as gender based violence, economic empowerment, and political
participation. The recommended Sri Lanka projects cover different
vulnerable groups and geographic areas, including the former
conflict-affected area of Jaffna, the Sinhalese south, Muslim areas,
and poverty stricken women working on plantations. The project
recommended for the Maldives will encourage greater political
participation by women. End Summary.

Country Context

2. (SBU) In May 2009 the Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) finally won
a 26-year war against the terrorist group the Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which had held control of large areas in the
North and East of the country for decades. Tens of thousands of
people died in the war, which resulted in thousands of war widows,
continued violence in society, and diminished economic opportunities
throughout Sri Lanka. Although the GSL won the war, they have not
yet won the peace through political reconciliation. Sri Lanka
remains a volatile mix of ethnic tension and economic
underdevelopment. Successful economic development plays an
important role in reducing political tensions between the majority
Singhalese, the Tamils, the Muslims, and the 'Plantation Tamils.'

3. (SBU) Sri Lankan women have certain achievements to their credit,
for example, Sri Lanka has had both a female President and female
Prime Ministers. In other areas, however, progress still needs to
be made. Sri Lankan women are underrepresented in politics, they
face gender based violence, and they have far fewer economic
opportunities than their male counterparts. Women constitute 52% of
Sri Lanka's population, but female representation in Parliament
stands at 4%, at only 1.9% in local government and at 3.4% in
municipal councils. Although Sri Lanka approved a law against
domestic violence in 2005, the Ministry of Women's Affairs estimated
that 60 percent of all women will face domestic or other forms of
violence at some point in their lives. Women also receive fewer
economic opportunities, particularly in rural areas, and this
problem is exacerbated by the number of 'war widows' with limited
economic skills who now must work to support their families.

4. (SBU) In the Maldives, women have a great opportunity to increase
their political participation, and thereby increase other life
opportunities. The Maldives was under 30 years of authoritarian
rule until 2008, when there were free elections and a former
political prisoner became President. President Nasheed attempted to
have a woman run as his Vice Presidential candidate, but was unable
to do so because women still are not permitted to serve as President
in the Maldives. The Maldives is a moderate Muslim society, but
women face discrimination, especially in the outlying islands, away
from the capital of Male, where two-thirds of the people reside.

Summary of Selected Proposals

5. (U) Post reviewed numerous strong proposals, and selected the
following five projects which address key issues in Sri Lanka and
the Maldives. The projects would be administered by the United
States Agency for International Development office in Colombo. We
have listed the proposals in our order of preference: 1) the Women
in Need NGO focuses on gender based violence issues in Jaffna, the
former war zone in Northern Sri Lanka; 2) the Maldivian Detainee
Network emphasizes political empowerment by training local women
leaders, especially in remote islands; 3)the Hambantota Chamber of
Commerce will teach entrepreneurship, English and IT skills to
disadvantaged rural women, and form women's chambers of commerce; 4)
the Women's Savings Effort in Sri Lanka will provide workshops and
training for women entrepreneurs and provide loans and materials to
start micro enterprises; and 5) the POWER Foundation will empower
community based organizations, encourage political participation,
and support business activities by plantation Tamil women, the
poorest sector of Sri Lankan society.

Project 1: Women in Need (WIN) - Project Against Gender Based

6. (U) Problem Statement - Violence against women is widespread in
Sri Lanka. Domestic violence, in particular, is considered a
private matter, so many women are reluctant to seek help from

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authorities, and are discouraged from doing so by their friends and
families. Law enforcement and judicial authorities do not always
take cases seriously. Sri Lanka's 26-year conflict exacerbated
violence against women in the community and in the home. The Jaffna
district was particularly hard-hit, with most of the population
displaced within the district or to other parts of Sri Lanka.

7. (U) Program Summary - WIN's project against gender based violence
includes awareness raising/training, service delivery and
organizational capacity building. Legal, counseling and shelter
services will be provided to 10,000 direct and indirect
beneficiaries through WIN's seven offices throughout the country.
Awareness-raising/training will target police, health workers,
community leaders, and teachers for improved gender-based violence
response. Capacity building will focus mainly on strengthening and
expanding services in the war-affected Jaffna district but will also
include national-level initiatives.

8. (U) Project Description
a) Awareness-raising/ Training
During the first three months, WIN will develop a curriculum for
awareness-raising/training sessions, targeted to particular
audiences. WIN will also update and print brochures, handbills and
posters for its campaign. WIN will then conduct 26
awareness-raising/training sessions on gender-based violence.
Target groups and target numbers include: police officers (250),
doctors (100), nurses (100), midwives (50), village public health
inspectors (50), village leaders (50), development officers (50),
community mediators (50), teachers (250) and students (250). WIN
will conduct pre- and post-program assessments. The aim is to
improve the response to gender-based violence at women's and
children's desks at police stations, hospitals, mediation boards and
community levels.
b) Service Provision
WIN will provide legal advice, legal representation and counseling
services through its seven centers across the country. It will also
continue to offer a shelter for survivors of violence, the only
known shelter of its kind in the country. WIN aims to serve a total
of 10,000 direct and indirect beneficiaries.
c) Organizational Capacity Building
WIN will focus its capacity building on its Jaffna center, while
also addressing needs across the country. The Jaffna center has
experienced an increased demand for services over the past months as
internally displaced persons (IDPs) have returned from camps. Over
280,000 people were in IDP camps at the end of the war, but
approximately 170,000 have been released and have returned primarily
to Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka. Jaffna-specific
capacity-building will include staff training, expansion of services
to outer areas of Jaffna and outreach to IDPs. Staff at all centers
will be trained in information technology to facilitate WIN's newly
implemented client management system. WIN will also bring staff
from across the island together for one-time training and reflection
on WIN's best practices and lessons learned.
WIN's close collaboration with local service providers contributes
to the sustainability of its work. Its work could be scaled up to
include additional geographic areas and increased numbers of

9. (U) Budget and Duration - WIN requests $100,000 for the 18-month
project. This includes the costs of curriculum development
($3,000), awareness-raising/ training programs ($32,000),
strengthening the Jaffna center ($15,000), capacity building
($10,000), service provision ($30,000) and administrative costs

10. (U) Recipient Organization - WIN was established in 1987 to
address domestic violence and has expanded into a nationwide network
of centers addressing gender-based violence. WIN has over 120
staff, including lawyers, social workers, and counselors as well as
administrative and support staff. WIN has successfully recruited
volunteer experts and raised funds from international donors and
individuals for over 20 years. Donors have included DAI (USAID
small grants programs), Swedish International Development Agency
(SIDA), Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the World
Bank, and UNICEF.

11. (U) Why Post Recommends this project - As IDPs return to Jaffna,
it has become increasingly important to develop and strengthen local
support mechanisms, particularly for extremely vulnerable
individuals. UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies have cited the

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lack of services for gender based violence (GBV) survivors as an
obstacle to return and reintegration. WIN has a long history of
working with GBV survivors and service providers in Sri Lanka. The
fact that WIN maintained a center in Jaffna throughout the conflict
is an impressive testament to its commitment and capacity. The
proposed activities build on existing WIN models and could be
implemented with little start-up delay.

Project 2: Network of Women's Rights Leaders proposed by the
Maldivian Detainee Network (MDN)

12. (U) Problem Statement - The Maldives is a geographically
dispersed nation state made up of 20 atolls and approximately 1,200
islands. The Maldives is a 100% Muslim state but the people have
always practiced a moderate and tolerant form of Islam. Democracy
in the country is in its infant stages: the country held its first
multi-party Presidential Elections in October 2008 and its first
multi-party Parliamentary Elections in May 2009.

The country is also a party to core United Nations Human Rights
Conventions, including the Convention on the Elimination of All
forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

13. (U) There are new influences in the religious practices in the
Maldives, including the recent rise of an ultra-conservative
interpretation of Islam that argues for a subservient role for
women. Traditional practices, and the new current of conservative
theology, threaten the rights of women to equal opportunities at
work, education and political participation. Many Maldivian women
do not understand their rights, and as a consequence, they lose out
during legal processes such as divorce, child custody, and abuse
cases. The Maldives also has a high rate of abuse of women,
estimated at one in three for women over the age of 15. These
issues are especially difficult in the more rural and isolated outer
atolls where two-thirds of the population lives.

14. (U) Program Summary - The project aims to inculcate a culture of
women's rights and gender equality throughout the Maldives by
empowering women in local communities to advocate and preserve their
rights. MDN plans to create a voluntary network of women leaders
based within local communities across 19 atolls and the capital,
Male'. Training will be conducted on women's rights issues
including human rights; constitutional, statutory and religious law;
advocacy; and monitoring. Leaders in the network will advocate for
women's rights, act as a community focal point, and report on
women's rights issues.

15. (U) Project Description: The project will increase the number of
women who actively participate in their social, political and
economic environments; train and accredit 120 women from 19 atolls
and Male' in women's rights, monitoring, reporting and advocacy; and
publish reports and updates on the MDN website regarding women's
rights situation across the country.
a) Training of Trainers (ToT) - ToT will cover family law,
inheritance law, and child rights; a moderate interpretation of
Islam on marital rights, right to work, right to education and
political participation; peer experiences from other Muslim
countries; Maldives' obligations under CEDAW and the mechanism to
lodge complaints to the CEDAW committee; Constitutional rights and
legal redress mechanisms; and project management including planning,
execution, and monitoring.
b) Identifying Individuals for the Network - Community Based
Organizations (CBOs) and NGOs will be utilized to identify at least
six potential female candidates from each atoll to serve as
advocates for women's rights. Local women will be better versed in
the community context and will be better able to advocate for
women's rights among the inhabitants in their particular island.
c) Training the Volunteer Network - Volunteer women leaders will
undergo a week-long intensive training at each atoll. Women leaders
will be trained on the ToT subjects and act as focal points for
women's concerns in their local community. The volunteers will
advocate at the local level and communicate to MDN for advocacy at
the national level.
d) Accrediting the Volunteers - Trainees will be invited to join the
volunteer network and sign a pledge to promote women's rights in a
non-partisan manner and to be truthful and as accurate as possible
in all reporting activities. Having a recognized and accredited
person in the community to advocate for women's rights and having a
support network will enhance the sustainability of the project.
e) Follow-up and Reporting - MDN will support the volunteers through

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regular communications and members will file bi-annual reports on
the local women's rights situation. MDN will publish the reports on
its website and compile a comprehensive annual report.

16. (U) Budget and Duration - The total project budget is $102,914
and the project duration is 18 months. Although the total budget is
over $100,000, the amount requested from S/GWI is $76,237 and MDN is
providing cost share of $26,677. Request funding is broken down as
follows: Direct Staff - $30,385, Training of Trainers - $7,600,
Training of Network of Rights Defenders $23,376, and Support -
$14,876. Post will email budget detail to S/GWI and work with MDN
to reduce the total project budget to $100,000 if required.

17. (U) Recipient Organization - MDN was established in 2004 to
campaign against the abuse of political detainees following
political unrest in the Maldives. MDN is widely recognized for its
important role during the country's transition to democracy and has
since broadened its mandate to human rights. MDN has received
financial assistance from many international donors including the
British High Commission, Australian High Commission, Canadian Fund
for Local Initiatives, Amnesty International, and United Nations
Development Program. The MDN is currently engaged in a
constitutional awareness raising project to educate the public in
all 20 atolls about constitutional rights, legal redress mechanisms,
international human rights treaty obligations and complaints
mechanisms. MDN has 3 full-time staff focused on core activities
and skilled in project management, human rights and development
work. MDN also has an extensive and distinguished pool of
volunteers including the Deputy Prosecutor General, lawyers,
religious experts, and well-known artists.

18. (U) Why Post Recommends this Project - The Maldives is a
moderate Muslim country with a young democracy that is facing
threats of radicalization. Women's rights are receding under the
shift towards extremist Islamic ideology. With a track record of
fighting for human rights, MDN has created a proposal that addresses
this erosion of women's rights at the island and community level by
training local women leaders and establishing a support network of
volunteers. This network will provide a voice for the vulnerable
women in local communities and serve as a catalyst to mobilize other
women to come forward and exercise their rights.

Project 3: Women's Entrepreneurship Project in the South

19. (U) Problem Statement: Many women in the rural south of Sri
Lanka have inferior educational and economic skills that restrict
their ability to participate in society and provide for their
families. Twenty percent of the households in this area are headed
by women, many of whom lost their husbands to the war or the 2004
tsunami, so the lack of opportunities leads to family deprivation.
There are few women entrepreneurs in the Southern district of
Hambantota, and to comply with local culture, some women run their
businesses under their husband's name. Finally, although Sri Lanka
has high literacy rates, many people do not have practical skills,
and there is a great need for training in English and Information

20. (U) Program Summary: The Hambantota Chamber of Commerce (HCC)
plans to promote entrepreneurship among disadvantaged women,
especially female headed households and widows, by providing
financing, mentoring and business development services. The HCC
will also provide English, entrepreneurship and IT skills to 200
participants, of whom 70 percent will be women. The HCC will
develop sustainable support for women entrepreneurs by creating a
women's section in the Hambantota Chamber of Commerce.

21. (U) Project Description: There are three primary activities in
this program.
a) The project to promote entrepreneurship among women will conduct
awareness campaigns, training sessions, provide loans, sponsor
business awards to increase business quality, and form links with
other women's organizations. The goal will be to increase the
capacity for the target group to establish and sustain their
b) English and Information Technology (IT) skills are essential to
run a successful business, and to reach target markets, such as
tourists. HCC plans to offer basic English courses, basic computer
training classes, and entrepreneurship and leadership classes. Each
of these programs will be offered to 200 participants, in classes of

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two hours per week for six months.
c) Currently there are few women business leaders and role models,
but the HCC plans to change that by establishing a women's section
in the Hambantota Chamber of Commerce. The women's section will be
a forum and networking platform to teach basic business skills
through peer assistance. The women's section will also be tied to
the HCC, thereby providing access to larger businesses in the

22. (U) Budget and Duration: The project will run for 18 months and
have a budget of $100,000. The HCC plans to expend $61,000 on the
project to promote awareness and entrepreneurship, $10,000 for the
English and IT classes, $12,000 for the activities of the women's
section of the Chamber of Commerce, and $16,000 in organization
costs. Post will send the detailed breakdown of the budget to

23. (U) Recipient Organization: The HCC is a non-profit
organization with 42 staff members, a board of 23 directors, and its
finances are audited by a firm of international advisors. The HCC
began in 1990, and at its inception it received assistance from
USAID. The HCC has received funding from the Norwegian Embassy, the
U.S. International Youth Foundation, and other NGO and international
NGO donors. The HCC was the first local chamber in Sri Lanka, which
has served as a model for almost 20 chambers around the country.
The HCC has previously implemented projects for youth entrepreneurs,
business development for widows and female heads of household. The
HCC currently is implementing a two year $200,000 program for the
International Finance Corporation for access to financing and
business seminars and counseling for SMEs.

24. (U) Why Post Recommends this Project: The Hambantota Chamber of
Commerce is a highly professional organization which can get the job
done. The project is also appealing because many women are trying
to support their families, but they do not have the awareness,
skills, or financial access to start a business. This proposed
project addresses all of these needs. Post also likes the approach
of creating a women's section in the Chamber to encourage young
business women, which puts them in touch with people with real world
business experience. The Hambantota Chamber of Commerce has been a
model for other chambers in the past, and if this program is
successful, it is likely to be copied throughout the island.

Project 4: Women's Savings Effort (WSE): Economic empowerment of
marginalized women in Sri Lankan villages

25. (U) Problem Statement: A Women's Savings Effort (WSE) study in
the target area found that women engaged in small scale village
industries were disadvantaged because they did not have collective
organizations to promote their interests. The women were also
constrained by their lack of business management and design skills.
Women lacked capital to invest and weak bargaining power lead to
exploitation by money lenders, middlemen, and buyers. Incomplete
access to production and marketing information also limited economic
advancement. The Puttalam district is an ethnically mixed district
with majority Sinhalese and minority Muslims.

26. (U) Project Summary: Through its ongoing work on rural
poverty, WSE has identified 225 female small scale producers in 5
Divisional Secretariat (DS) divisions (similar to counties) in the
Puttalam district. The proposed activities include the formation of
women's organizations, training in product design and business
management, a revolving loan fund, collective equipment and
developing market linkages through exhibitions and advertising.

27. (U) Project Description:
a) Women's Organizations - WSE will hold ten interactive workshops
to mobilize women producers and facilitate the formation of 9
Women's Organizations aimed at improving local economies.
b) Training - All 225 target women will be trained in business
management, using the International Labor Organization curriculum.
Upon completion of training, participants will understand business
management systems and be able to keep records and assess their own
progress. Twenty women will be trained to design products such as
household utility items, handicrafts, and footwear. These women
will lead 'exposure programs' for the other women, so that 98
percent of all the beneficiaries are introduced to new products and
improve the quality of their own work. WSE will also work with
women to better cultivate raw materials, such as reeds, for
production while conserving the environment.

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c) Revolving Loan - WSE will establish a revolving loan fund to
provide beneficiaries with access to credit unavailable from banks.
Impact will be measured by increases in investments, savings and
production. WSE will provide sewing machines and tools on a group
loan basis. Impact will be measured by increase in production,
income, savings, quality of products and demand for products.
d) Market linkages - WSE will print catalogues, handbills, leaflets
and posters to advertise beneficiaries' products. It will also
organize five exhibitions in urban areas to link women to buyers.
Performance will be measures by the number of agreements signed and
orders placed, and the percent increase in sales.
e) The WSE project has the potential to create sustainable
improvement by helping women organize into ongoing groups,
developing their skills and access to credit, and creating market
linkages. The project could be scaled up to provide increased
credit lines to eligible women or to expand target products. It
could also be replicated in other geographic areas.

28. (U) Budget and Duration: WSE requests a total of $51,720 for an
18-month project. The bulk, $39,960, would go to program costs. Of
this, $5,000 would go to the revolving loan fund, $3,200 would cover
sewing machines and tools, $8,325 would cover the exhibitions and
advertising, and the remainder would fund trainings and creation of
women's organizations. Staff costs total $8,010 and would fund a
Senior Coordinator, an Assistant Coordinator and part-time Accounts
Assistant. Travel costs for coordinators total $1,680 and other
direct costs (office supplies, communication, utilities, reporting,
auditing) total $1,680.

29. (U) Recipient Organization: The Women's Savings Effort (WSE)
was established in 1978 to carry out rural development programs in
Sri Lanka. WSE conducts savings and credit programs, and initiates
women's organizations in the Puttalam and Galle districts. Income
generation programs have included handicrafts, paper production from
recycled paper, food processing such as fruit juice production and
nontraditional activities for women such as masonry and carpentry.
WSE has a group of women trained by the International Labor
Organization to train women entrepreneurs. WSE's 2008 budget
totaled US $86,454. Accounts are audited yearly by Government
approved external auditors. Previous donors include CIDA, AusAID,
ACT-Japan, IUCN-Sri Lanka, Australian High Commission, British High
Commission, and ILO - IPCE Sri Lanka.

30. (U) Why Post Recommends this Project: WSE has already laid the
groundwork for its project through its study of the target area.
The proposed activities directly address the needs identified. WSE
has demonstrated expertise in rural economic empowerment and has
attracted an impressive list of donors for such a small
organization. Its grassroots approach keeps connections to the
target communities close and costs low. Its relatively small budget
request demonstrates a realistic sense of its own capacity and a
commitment to quality over chasing funds. Puttalam is home to much
of Sri Lanka's minority Muslim population and has also long hosted
Muslims forcibly expelled from Northern Sri Lanka by the LTTE in
1990. A project in Puttalam would help Post diversify its
assistance across religious groups and geographic areas in Sri

Project 5: Broad Based Assistance for Plantation Women by The POWER
Foundation (TPF)

31. (U) Problem Statement: The Tamil plantation workers in Sri
Lanka are descendents from migrant laborers who came to work in the
tea plantations over one hundred years ago, but they were recognized
as citizens only in 2003, and they struggle to gain their full
rights. The plantation tea workers remain the poorest group in the
country, and unlike the rest of the population, their poverty rates
are not declining. Plantation women have a particularly difficult
life because they actually pick the tea leaves, and they have little
education and few economic opportunities. Indeed, the husbands of
60% of the women workers draw the women's wages, so they have little
independence. The women's low level of education, lack of
occupational skills and gender discrimination lead to a marginalized
life of dependency and vulnerability.

32. (U) Project Summary: Although civil society organizations are
operating in the plantation communities, women's rights are largely
unaddressed due to the lack of a formal institutional mechanism to
raise and present women's issues in the plantations. This
cross-cutting project aims to establish a women's network in the

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Badulla District of Uva Province to enable the plantation women to
actively participate in promoting their well being; safeguarding
their rights; and enhancing their role in leadership and decision

33. (U) Project Description: The project objectives and a summary
of the related activities are as follows. Post will email the
detailed table of Activities, Desired Outcome, and Performance
Measures to S/GWI.
a) Improve self confidence and reliance of women at community and
family levels - activities will educate/expose members on
fundamental rights/women's rights and social responsibilities of
women; and promote harmony within the family, community and outside
the community. The project will create mass awareness on the
plantation women's plight and their aspirations through weekly radio
programs; and organize a women's conference and a school competition
to draw the attention of the authorities and policy makers. TPF
will provide the necessary support for the well being of women and
safeguarding of victims of violence.
b) Increase additional family income by women up to minimum $23 per
month by the end of the 15th month - activities will promote income
generating activities in the sector of agriculture and non-farm
sector for selected beneficiaries; and strengthen organizational and
institutional capacity of Community Based Organizations (CBOs) to
provide support services for the $10,909 investment fund for
activities in agriculture and small enterprise sectors. Selected
women with poor and deserving families will be assisted by the
respective women's desk to promote additional income generation
c) Promote women's participation in political activities -
activities will create awareness of political rights and
responsibilities; and develop democratic decision making leadership
skills. Twenty young women who possess leadership qualities will be
identified, given information on civil society, and encouraged to
participate in local government activities. The women's network in
the five divisional secretariats will organize a conference to
promote women's participation in local politics.
d) Improve physical infrastructure and resource management systems -
activities will strengthen the institutional capacity of CBOs and
their women's desks. The project will utilize 40 Community Based
Organizations to promote and establish individual women's wings
within each CBO that will be affiliated with the five local women's
networks. Each of these networks will formulate a women's desk to
provide legal and other support services to the plantation women.
Training on social responsibilities, gender and rights issues will
be conducted for the women's network. The women's networks will be
linked to the Ministry of Women's Affairs, estate management, and
trade unions to enhance shared responsibility and sustainability of
the project.

34. (U) Budget and Duration: The total project budget is $110,977
and the project duration is 18 months. Although the total budget is
over $100,000, the amount requested from S/GWI is $93,088 with TPF
providing a cost share of $17,889. Requested funding is broken down
as follows: Direct Labor - $24,685; Travel and Per Diem - $1,636;
Equipment and Supplies - $5,000; Program Activities - $58,582; and
Other Direct Cost - $3,185. Post will email the budget detail to
S/GWI, and will work with TPF to reduce the total project budget to
$100,000 if required.

35. (U) Recipient Organization: TPF was established in 1986, and
they have been working with plantation workers in the Uva Province
since 1991. TPF employs a total of 42 full-time staff, including
project directors, coordinators, administrative support, and field
staff. 75% of the TPF team members are females. TPF has been
engaged in social mobilization; community empowerment; livelihood
development; awareness building on right issues; gender
sensitization and women development activities; training and
education; and peace building activities with the financial
assistance of international donors such as American Jewish World
Service, Oxfam GB, AusAID, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, International
Labor Organization, and Asia Foundation.

36. (U) Why Post Recommends this Project: The plantation Tamils are
an excluded minority in Sri Lanka with Tamils in the post-war East
and North garnering more attention from the donor community. The
plantation women are locked in a cycle of poverty that is rooted in
a dependency mentality, low income, and lack of awareness of their
rights. Working with TPF's partner CBOs in the plantation
communities, this cross-cutting project will address the core

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problem by establishing a structure for plantation women to take
part in the process of ensuring their rights and enhancing their
participation in political, economic, and social advancement.

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