International Women’s Day commemorated annually on March 8, offers an opportunity to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of economies, countries and communities.

As this year marks twenty-five years since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the focus of the 2020 International Women’s Day celebrated by the European Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka (ECCSL) will be “encouraging and celebrating women in management and governance”.

It is a global economic imperative that women’s labour force participation brings significant economic and business growth. For this reason, all processes of global governance policies embrace accountability, transparency, responsiveness and inclusiveness, which has, in the past, led to social and economic transformation.

A key mandate of the ECCSL for 2020 includes enhancing women’s economic empowerment through encouraging entrepreneurship and celebrating business leadership. In view of putting improved female participation on the agenda of economic growth, the ECCSL has planned several initiatives scheduled to unfold this year. In particular, this event will focus on making the business community and general public aware of a certain Preferential Membership Scheme awarded to female entrepreneurs and ladies in business and leadership roles.

According to an ILO report, if women were to participate in the economy at the same rate as men, Europe and Asia could see as much as a US$1.1 trillion boost to gross domestic product (GDP), or an additional 23% of annual regional GDP. The report goes on to say that the top 5 measures for companies to promote women in management are: exposing women to all company operations and functions, executive training for women, assigning women managers visible and challenging tasks, recognition and support for women, and providing mentoring schemes.

The scheme to be announced this week offered by the ECCSL focuses on businesses founded and managed by female entrepreneurs, or where the majority of beneficial ownership rests with a female.

A notable feature of the scheme is that the trilingual announcement with an emphasis on Small and Medium Enterprises is meant to provide a platform of inclusiveness for businesses looking to expand into Europe and carry out advocacy to influence policy and improve the quality of inclusiveness in governance. Given that the SME Sector represents 70 – 75% of GDP forming the backbone of the economy that must never be left on an economy’s journey to being export led.

The announcement of the said scheme will be made in collaboration with The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Colombo, Women in Management and the Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry at an event where public and media will be briefed on the Preferential Membership Scheme available to female entrepreneurs and raise awareness of the collaboration and joint membership benefits.

The event will include the participation of 4 speakers including Trine Jøranli Eskedal on Norwegian and European policy on inclusiveness in governance; Chair of Women in Management (WiM), Dr. Sulochana Segera on importance of female participation in management and recognition among the informal sector economy; Chair of WCIC, Chathuri Ranasinghe on role of female participation within the Sri Lankan economic context and Head of Operations at ECCSL, Tanya Goonewardene on the joint collaborative efforts and initiatives to encourage, empower and recognize female leadership in management.

At the event will also be the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between ECCSL and the Nordic Business Council which will no doubt increase and enhance the reach of the European Chamber in its efforts to promote, support and facilitate bilateral trade relations.

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