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CERI Gives a Boost to a Widow’s Sewing Business in Sri Lanka

Mrs. Nallammah, 60, is a widowed hostel administrator in the town of Batticaloa, Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province. Three of her four adult children live abroad, and she looks after her grandson. Struggling to make ends meet, Mrs. Nallammah began moonlighting as a seamstress and joined the Women’s Small Group, a grassroots network established by CERI to provide small loans to the budding entrepreneurs in Mrs. Nallammah’s community.

The majority of small business owners supported by CERI are foster parents who participate in the agency’s initiative promoting the adoption of orphans and children separated from parents as a result of the destructive 2004 tsunami and the protracted civil war that ended in 2009.

Mrs. Nallammah received two loans from CERI in 2005-2008, which she repaid on time. These funds enabled her to expand her home-based sewing enterprise and increase her income to $26 per month—no small feat for a widow in rural Sri Lanka.

She sews dresses, blouses, pillow covers and school uniforms, in addition to traditional Sri Lankan female outfits, such as sari and salwar (loose trousers with a tight fit around the ankle). Her business gets quite busy during the Sri Lankan holiday season in December.

In April 2010, Women’s Small Group (WSG) disbursed a third loan in the amount of $133 to Mrs. Nallammah. She needs to repay it with a 0.75% interest within 12 months. Since she became the recipient of WSG’s loans, the resourceful dressmaker has widened her clientele, purchased additional rolls of fabric, and put her attractive outfits up for sale. She currently earns $ 35 per month, continues to repay her loan on time, and contemplates targeting a larger neighborhood market with her hand-made garments. When asked about her future plans, the ambitious business lady said she “would like to receive a larger loan to open a tailor’s shop and to hire additional staff” to help her run the business.

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