Sri Lanka converts war-time IDP camp in North to an apparel village

Sri Lanka has transformed the war-time displacement camp that housed nearly 300,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) at the conclusion of the war in May 2009 into an apparel village with garment factories as part of a new US$ 1.8 million national apparel initiative at village levels, Ministry of Industry and Commerce said in a statement.

“Reconciliation would be a distant dream without provision of proper livelihoods to IDPs and war affected,” Sri Lanka’s Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen said at the inauguration ceremony of one of the mini factories in the Menik Farm Village under the 150 Mini Apparel Factories Program by his Ministry.

This village was the location of former Menik Farm Displacement Camp, which was considered as the world’s largest refugee camp at one time sheltering close to 300,000 refugees. The displacement camp had eight zones and after a four-year run, it was closed at the end of 2012 as the war too ended and all refugees were resettled. This vicinity now has a village -the Menik Farm Village.

Minister Bathiudeen Rs. 287 million (US $ 1.87 million) project aims at setting up 150 Mini Apparel Factories across the country in support of Unity government’s one million new employments program.

Sri Lanka Institute of Textile & Apparel (SLITA) under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce is tasked with the project which seeks to bring 3,000 women across the country to self-employment in apparels and handlooms.

The project, centered around 20-women strong small scale “Mini” Apparel Factories, has higher goals- to produce high quality apparels later on rather than handlooms alone and to become part of world class global apparel supply chain that Sri Lanka is reputed for.

Each factory therefore is provided with a range of high end apparel machineries that are industry standard in Sri Lanka- single needle machines, cutting tables, and even button-hole machines. A special feature of the project is that nearly half of all mini factories are dedicated to the war widows of Northern and Eastern Provinces.

Minister Bathiudeen addressing the gathering at the opening ceremony of the first factory in the Menik Farm village on Tuesday (Nov 14) said 73 of the 150 factories are dedicated for conflict affected families.

Of the 73 mini factories in North and East, 38 will be in the Northern Province while 35 will be in East. Jaffna District will get three and 13 factories will be in Vavuniya.

Already 135 centers have commenced training and after six months, these centers will become mini apparel factories, each employing 22 persons. The trained women thereafter can form their own textile cooperative or business partnerships with regional buyers through supply sub contracts.

“We want these 150 factories to form their own apparel companies or cooperatives one day and share their profits among them. Reconciliation would be a distant dream without provision of livelihood to war affected families,” the Minister said.

Minister Bathiudeen and the SLITA officials including Director General of SLITA (Engineer) Robert Peiris distributed the apparel machinery to twenty women and war widows and also launched their training sessions.


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