Ms. Manique Gunaratne spoke on “Promoting entrepreneurs with disabilities” at the UNESCAP conference in July 2021. The presentation focused on the Overview of the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon with a focus on its work in supporting entrepreneurs with disabilities, including female entrepreneurs; good practices, challenges faced and lessons learned in developing and implementing programmes to support entrepreneurs.
MANIQUE GUNARATNE The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon, 385 J3 Old Kotte Road, Rajagiriya, Sri Lanka.
Ms. Manique Gunaratne together with Mr. Madura Dassanayaka took the initiative to provide financial support to Ms. Chandra Malkanthi (a partially sighted and a hard of hearing person) in a remote village in Sri Lanka to start up her own business in February 2022. Persons with #disabilities in Asia are constantly taught to be subservient. They are taught only to listen and not speak up. The lack of self-confidence leaves them with hunched shoulders, unable to stand tall and make their voices heard. In such a society, the situation of these people is worse and they are often more timid and backward than their counterparts of persons with non-disabilities.
Of late, Sri Lankan persons with disabilities have shown a tendency of combating outdated cultural norms and securing their rightful place in society. They have gathered the strength to pursue their ambitions. The number of career men and women has increased considerably in the recent past. However, the same cannot be said of persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities have difficulty in finding vocational training and employment or setting up one’s own businesses. This is not purely due to the lack of hard skills or educational qualifications. Even if a person with a disability possesses the requisite qualifications and intellect for a particular profession, they fail because they lack the personality traits that employers and clients look for.
Modern-day employers specifically look for candidates who possess soft skills such as interpersonal skills, presentation skills, etiquette, adequate grooming, team spirit, the right attitude, flexibility, appropriate dressing sense and presentability, presence of mind, time management, work ethics, personal hygiene, listening skills, communication skills, street smartness and common sense. Research has shown that in this competitive era, mere hard skills do not make a person employable and enable that person to sustain in professional life. Unfortunately, most persons with disabilities are unable to acquire the skills which are required for personality development and employability skills due to their impediments. People with non-disabilities follow visual cues and learn from others or join a vocational training Institute. People with disabilities are unable to join mainstream vocational training centres as most training centres do not offer individualized lessons nor can they learn through observation. It is expected that the training courses specially designed to cater to the needs of this marginalized group of people with diverse disabilities will give them the ability to project themselves better and create an impression on others and eventually find a sustainable income. Therefore, it is very important to promote and support #entrepreneurswithdisabilities.
MANIQUE GUNARATNE Manager – Specialised Training and Disability Resource Centre The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon
Manique Gunaratne together with Madura Dassanayake took another initiative to support entrepreneurs with #disability by providing financial support to Kaveesha Ridmi to expand her business in April 2022. Kaveesha is a young girl with a hearing impairment in Anuradhapura, a remote village in Sri Lanka. Kaveesha is a very hard-working youth with a disability who is trying her level best to support her family. Since both her parents are not there she lives with her grandmother who is very old. All her siblings are hearing impaired and one sister is deaf-blind.
MANIQUE GUNARATNE Vice-Chair Person – South Asian Disability Forum