Empowered women of the apparel industry – powering a nation to prosperity

October 10, 2019 | Written by Daily FT

With over 350,000 women under its wing, Sri Lanka’s apparel industry is a primary contributor to the country’s economy. Taking over the baton from traditional commodity exports, the rapid development of the country’s textile and apparel industry has resulted in transforming Sri Lanka into an international force to reckon with.

Empowering this industry and ensuring its local and global success is its female workforce. In order to recognise these champions and their contribution to the economy, the Joint Apparel Association Forum Sri Lanka (JAAFSL) launched the ‘Matai Mage Ratatai’ campaign, with the objective of making a positive difference to the lives of the industry’s majority female associates.

Recording significant growth, Sri Lanka’s apparel industry is one of the leading contributors to the local economy. Supplying major export markets including the US, the UK, Italy, Germany, Canada and Australia, apparel exports contribute 59% to the country’s total exports industry. In addition, from among manufactured products exported overseas, apparel exports make up 45% of the total export turnover of $ 11.3 b.

Apparel has evolved from a traditionally low-wage industry, to providing sophisticated solutions for local and global markets. Leveraging local talent and creativity in design, R&D and innovation, the apparel industry was recognised as the top exporting industry in Sri Lanka with a $ 5 billion annual income in 2018.

In Sri Lanka, women have been the driving force behind the rapidly developing apparel industry. The perception of women locally has been somewhat stagnant, with archaic notions of traditional roles played by women in society. However, today, the apparel industry has taken it upon itself to change these perceptions and empower its women.

By providing women opportunities to gain economic independence, career advancement, skills and knowledge development, and the ability to balance their work and personal lives the industry has today made a tangible difference in their lives. In turn, these remarkable and empowered women are able to stand up for themselves and speak out to positively impact their homes, companies and communities around them.

No more are these women merely seamstresses in the apparel industry; today, they are industry experts that inspire and motivate everyone around them. By empowering them both at the workplace and in their personal lives, these women have been able to make valuable contributions to society.

Today, JAAFSL celebrates these exceptional women who are role models in their communities and play a significant role in the country’s economy. They are mothers, daughters, sisters and young adults. Their stories of courage, determination, perseverance and commitment are not only inspirational to their families but also to the nation at large. They have risen from humble beginnings and have gone beyond traditional barriers, facing all odds and overcoming adverse circumstances.