John Keells Foundation empowers women towards gender equality

The International Women’s Day on 8th of March, is a day to reflect on the extraordinary achievements of women, who drive change while contributing to the social, economic, and cultural progress of a country.

John Keells Foundation (JKF) – the corporate responsibility entity of the John Keells Group – is dedicated to creating gender empowerment through its many initiatives within 6 focus areas which are aligned with the Group’s CSR vision of ‘Empowering the Nation for Tomorrow’. While JKF’s varied programmes target multiple underserved communities, gender empowerment is a crosscutting theme.

Speaking at a Women’s Leadership Forum entitled `BreakTheBias for a Better Tomorrow’ organized by the Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce on 15th March 2022, Carmeline Jayasuriya, Head of CSR and JKF, said, “When women are empowered to be safe, self-reliant and financially stable, the resultant socio-economic impact benefits not only themselves but their children, family and community as a whole. As such, our programmes focus on promoting skills, livelihoods and market opportunities for women as well as building stronger ecosystems to tackle deeply ingrained and inhibiting issues such as gender stereotyping, discrimination and harassment.”

Under JKF’s livelihood development programmes such as John Keells Praja Shakthi, many Micro, Small and Medium sized Enterprises – especially women-led enterprises – are supported in improving access to finance, value chains and markets.

Under the Foundation’s Education pillar – supporting women in pursuing higher education and empowering them with skills towards enhancing their career has been a key objective.

‘John Keells English Language Scholarship Programme’ is aimed at enhancing the English communication, ICT and soft skills of selected youth, directly benefitting over 17,700 of which a majority are females.

JKF’s ‘Skill into Progress’ (SKIP) programme is a supply chain management initiative aimed at empowering selected suppliers of the John Keells Group to be competitive in a pandemic-challenged economy.

Under Health, JKF Combats gender-based violence (GBV) and child abuse through awareness creation while reinforcing enabling social structures. “Project WAVE” (Working Against Violence through Education) is a long-term project encompassing sensitization and training for Group employees, police officers, lawyers, teachers, and the public.

As JKF works on uplifting the lives of disadvantaged communities across the country under its vision of ‘Empowering the Nation for Tomorrow’, gender empowerment will continue to be an integral and cross-cutting theme of development initiatives undertaken to empower women with skills, knowledge, and opportunities to be socially and economically independent.

Livelihood Development, Education and Health are three of the six focus areas of John Keells Foundation – the CSR entity of John Keells Holdings PLC (JKH), a company listed in the Colombo Stock Exchange operating over 70 companies in 7 diverse industry sectors. With a history of over 150 years, John Keells Group has been ranked as Sri Lanka’s ‘Most Respected Entity’ for the last 15 Years by LMD Magazine. Whilst being a full member of the World Economic Forum and a Participant of the UN Global Compact, JKH drives its CSR vision of “Empowering the Nation for Tomorrow” through John Keells Foundation and through the social entrepreneurship initiative, ‘Plasticcycle’, which is a catalyst in significantly reducing plastic pollution in Sri Lanka.

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