1.8 million dollar apparel initiative at Sri Lankan refugee camp

1.8 million dollar apparel initiative at Sri Lankan refugee camp

November 19, 2017   02:10 pm

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The Sri Lankan refugee displacement village that entered the global limelight as the world’s largest refugee camp at one time has been brought back to life- but not as yet another grim tale of displacement, rather as part of a new US $ 1.8 Mn national apparel initiative at village levels.

“Reconciliation would be a distant dream without provision of proper livelihoods to IDPs and war affected” said Sri Lanka’s Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen on 14 November. Minister Bathiudeen was addressing more than 200 people of Menik Farm Village, located south west of Vavuniya during the inauguration ceremony of one of the Mini Factories under 150 Mini Apparel Factories Program by his Ministry.

This village was the location of former Menik Farm Displacement Camp (or simply the Menik Farm), which was considered as the world’s largest refugee camp at one time sheltering close to 300,000 refugees. The displacement camp had eight zones and after a four-year run, it was closed at the end of 2012 as the war too ended and all refugees were resettled. This vicinity now has a village -the Menik Farm Village.

Minister Bathiudeen’s SL Rs 287 Mn (US $ 1.87 Mn) project aims at setting up 150 Mini Apparel Factories across the country in support of Unity government’s one million new employments program. Sri Lanka Institute of Textile & Apparel (SLITA) under Minister Bathiudeen is tasked with the project which seeks to bring 3000 women across the country to self-employment in apparels and handlooms.

The project, is centred around 20-women strong small scale “Mini” Apparel Factories, has higher goals- to produce high quality apparels later on rather than handlooms alone and to become part of world class global apparel supply chain that Sri Lanka is reputed for.

Each factory therefore is provided with a range of high end apparel machineries that are industry standard in Sri Lanka- single needle machines, cutting tables, and even button-hole machines. A special feature of the project is that close to 50% of all mini factories are dedicated to a forgotten lot from the three decades of conflict-the helpless war widows of Nothern and Eastern Provinces.

“73 centres of the 150 are dedicated for conflict affected families such as you” said Minister Bathiudeen addressing the 300 Menik Camp folk–all of them Tamil- who flocked to take part in the traditional opening ceremony and witnessing the birth of the their apparel factory in their own village on 14 November. 

“Of the 73 mini factories in North and East, 38 will be in the Northern Province while 35 will be in East. Jaffna District will get three and 13 factories for Vavuniya. So far 135 centres have commenced training and after six months, these centres will become mini apparel factories, each employing 22 persons. The trained women thereafter can form their own textile Cooperative or business partnerships with regional buyers through supply sub contracts. We want these 150 factories to form their own apparel companies or cooperatives one day and share their profits among them. Reconciliation would be a distant dream without provision of livelihood to war affected families.”

Minister Bathiudeen and his SLITA officials including Director General of SLITA (Engineer) Robert Peries thereafter distributed the apparel machinery to the twenty women and war widows and also launched their training sessions.  

Menik Farm Displacement Camp was a familiar site to Minister Bathiudeen, who, as the then Minister of Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services in charge of resettlement of refugees at the close of war, was a frequent visitor to the site to review the progress of relief distribution and resettlement. 

- Ministry of Industry and Commerce 

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