Ghanawathi grew up in the remote village of Bibile, in the district of Monaragala, in the UVA province of Sri Lanka. She had to write all her school subjects in one book because that’s all her parents could afford to buy. After she came home from school, she used to go to the nearby forest and collect different leaves for cooking and sell them for 25 rupees each and the money she would save up she would use for her school stationery needs. This hard working process as a child and her love for nature is what inspired her to become the entrepreneur that she is today.
She began weaving cane products in the year 2000 for her own livelihood. After a few years since she was doing fairly well, she began to train 12 women to weave cane products. The group gradually increased and today she has a network of 60 contract producers manufacturing cane products in my village. She buys their products and sell them to wholesale shops. They all earn more than LKR 10,000 per month by weaving cane products like wastepaper baskets, tissue boxes, table mats, storage boxes and handbags. She sells all these products to shops in Battaramulla, Colombo and Monaragala and receives some orders through online marketing channels.
The journey to get to this point was not easy She mentions, “I remember I had to walk a distance of 6 kilometers to the nearest training center to learn the art of weaving. After following this initial training course at the National Crafts Council, they supported me to develop my skills as a cane manufacturer and later they also recruited me as a registered teacher to train more women, old and young, who are interested in this industry. I never had the opportunity to learn English but after the coaching from the ENTERPRISE project funded by tge EU, I now even have a Facebook account which I operate with help from my children. (FB page: Shashikala Wewal Banda Nishpadakayo “
Today, she is a grandmother and a woman who has influenced many women around her, and she is proud that she has been able achieve and win many regional and national accolades which enabled her to support her family and also provide employment to many others. She goes on to say “ I had one dream - to build a showroom and the ENTERPRISE project supported me to do this with a grant of LKR 1.5 million for the construction of a new building on my own land. If not for this grant I would have had to save for four to five years to build a new showroom but now I can proudly showcase all my products for customers to see. My inner goal is to always be the best version of myself by constantly making the effort to study new product designs and regularly add new products to my product range. When I master a new product design, I transfer that skill to the other cane producers. They are a great support to me especially when I receive large orders. One of the biggest challenges in this industry is to find cane, as they usually grow in the forest and recently because of the enterprise I have built I had the opportunity to present the issue to the President at an SME forum with local entrepreneurs and we received a favorable response.