Rural women in Sri Lanka enjoy better status and rights compared to other countries in South Asia; literacy rates are high and similar to men's (98.6% and 97.7% respectively); they have relatively better access to services (maternal mortality ratio is 35 in 100,000) and the gender inequality index (GII) is 0,37023, ranking among high human development countries. However, availability of economic opportunities in rural areas represent a key challenge for rural women, who face severe discrimination with regards to owning land and accessing credit. The most vulnerable women are those in post-conflict areas in the north of the country, those affected by the tsunami on the east coast, and female heads of households (generally widows and/ or elderly).
The SAPP gender strategy aims at addressing the challenges to women by:
i) promoting women's inclusion in economic opportunities through the 4Ps schemes
ii) supporting their leadership and decision-making capacity to undertake economic activities, and within their groups and their communities; and
iii) supporting the management of their workload. The entry points to intervene will be through 4P partnerships, rural organizations and (youth) entrepreneurial activities.
In order to support women's inclusion in economic opportunities under the 4Ps, gender considerations will be incorporated among the evaluation/ assessment criteria in review of proposals, and trained field staff will assess women's specific needs. Particular attention will be placed on exposing both women and men in the household to trainings and capacity development opportunities. Although the 4Ps are market-driven partnerships, preference will be given to value chains/ sub-sectors that have a high degree of women's participation. Skills upgrading and labor saving technologies will be actively promoted in the context of these partnerships, which has been demonstrated in NADeP (Predecessor of SAPP) with the reduced workload of female beneficiaries.
The promotion of youth and women's active participation in rural organizations is part of the SAP strategy to empower all producers/ farmers under 4P schemes. Women's role and participation in rural organizations varies enormously across the rural landscape, with no clear correlation with type of organization, size and structure. For this, rural organization members will gauge their levels of inclusiveness and gender sensitivity as a central dimension of their overall maturity self-assessment, developing a related capacity building plan for their progressive strengthening.
Lastly, business and entrepreneurial activities promoted by SAPP for landless youth will build on the experience of NADeP and the evidence of their very positive impact (where 79% of beneficiaries were young women). Improved access to credit and a package of entrepreneurial and vocational training, with business mentor-ship, will support young women in particular, to take advantage of economic opportunities arising from 4P schemes (e.g. engaging in post-production activities such as drying fish and fruit, fodder production to accompany dairy development, etc.).
SAPP will also promote policy engagement for the removal of gender-based constraints in access to credit by interacting with key stakeholders and supporting the development of gender-sensitive operational guidelines of the micro finance Department in the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.