ABOUT US
 
It would not be wrong to say that WDF is an unintended outcome of Jansaviya unique to Hambantota district. National Poverty Alleviation Porgramme, Janasaviya, was launched in 1989 in response to the second insurrection against the government.

Hambantota district had been at the low end of the development compare to many other districts in Sri Lanka in 1970s. Its poverty level was at about more than 30% in 1970s while the district had also been considered as a difficult working station in the government service too at that time due to low level of socio-economic infrastructure development. Therefore the district had been selected as the 2nd district of Sri Lanka to be developed with an Integrated Rural Development Programme in 1978. Though IRDP had been able to develop socio-economic infrastructure facilities at local level in the district to a large extent and improve the quality of life of rural people to some extent during 1980s it failed to address structural issues like income poverty, unemployment among youth and widening inequality in the society which created discontent particularly among youth. Hambantota district had been one of the district severely affected by the 2nd insurrection against the government.

Jansaviya was first launched initially in two DS Divisions, Sooriyawewa and Hambantota, in Hambantota district as they were considered as poorer than other divisions and severely affected by the insurrection. The basic approach of Janasaviya was the empowerment of poor through social mobilization to build their capacity, individually and collectively, to understand their situation and take corrective measures to address their problems by themselves. Basically the methodology of Change Agent Programme had been used for Social Mobilization. The awareness among poor families about their present situation was created through social mobilization leading them to organize into small groups and take action collectively in a small scale to address issues associated with poverty.

Under the Janasaviya programme very active women’s groups were formed in both Hanbantota and Sooriyawewa divisions and they were very enthusiastic and ahead of many other areas in Sri Lanka in starting activities for the well being of their families including establishing group funds and using them for loan transaction among themselves without any proper vision or guidance to make it sustainable. Neither Janasaviya nor the Change Agent programme had a vision or a planned programme to make small groups into a bigger organization and institutionalize them with increasing capacity to respond to the changing needs of poor families in a sustainable manner. If it had been there not only in Hambantota but also in other districts in the country where Janasaviya and Janasaviya Trust Fund had been implemented would have had the opportunity to initiate a programme like WDF in Hambantota. What was the enabling factor here? It was the committed and knowledgeable officials who understood and believed the concepts of peoples’ participation and empowerment of poor like Mr. Mithraratne who guided and headed the programme on the one hand and the support extended by AGA like divisional heads and supporting staff of equal calibre on the other hand.

Under the guidance of then Government Agent (GA) of Hambantota district, Mr.Mithrratne, the membership of small groups had been organized into village level Women Development Societies adding more strength to their small groups and federating these societies again into a much larger organization at district level to lay a more solid foundation to the organization. With his farsighted policies the organization has been establish as a Non Governmental Organization to protect it from government interference and give the full responsibility of its management to its membership. In parallel the guidance and directions have been provided to organize and institutionalized its micro finance services to be managed as a financially and economically viable operation by organizing Janashakthi Banku Sangam (JBS), the unit provided financial services, to cover an area of several Women Development Societies to have a membership of about 300 to 400 for a JBS to make it economically viable. Mr. Mithraratne provided all these guidance and advice as a chairman of advisory body of WDF.

In order to achieve the present success, a carefully developed capacity development plan to build the capacity according to changing needs of all levels have been implemented while addressing the changing needs of the membership.