10% of the population in Sri Lanka follows the Muslim faith. Many women of this faith live in rural areas, restricting their opportunities for work and progression and society’s attitudes towards various types of employment in this part of the world can also be an obstacle.
The tourism industry is a major employer in Sri Lanka; however, to break into this industry English is a prerequisite. Many women within this community do not have the tools to break the conservative social norms and develop their skillset.
This is where AASHA, a grass roots social enterprise comes in. AASHA volunteers, with the help of local support staff, conduct English classes for women of all ages to build their language skills. Still in its first 12 months, the programme has supported over 75 women, with 16% of these women finding employment upon completing the course, and many participants reporting improved interactions with family members also studying English, elevating their position in the household.
Despite its achievements, the programme does come with challenges in pushing the cultural norms within the rural community. The programme relies on female coordinators to speak with families and highlight the benefits of providing skills and development to females within the household, however the programme is expanding.
AASHA is currently building on its existing platform and is looking to conduct vocational training in the creative industries to provide local women with the skills they require for employment, resulting in higher employment rates and a boost to the local economy.
You can find out more about the great work AASHA conducts here.