Here's the lowdown on sustainable packaging in Sri Lanka
Working in the packaging industry, Savera Weerasinghe, CEO of Ananta Sustainables, saw firsthand the role it played in pollution and environmental sustainability: Roughly about 52% of plastic in landfills is packaging. She went on to observe that individuals are far more concerned about environmental sustainability than corporations are. Unfortunately, packaging is something not many get to exercise choice in consuming, we’re just stuck with everything we buy being covered in swathes of unnecessary plastic.
Changing the mindset of gender equality
A formidable 72% of Savera’s employees are women and most of them don’t quite understand why she’s so passionate about gender equality, but that’s slowly changing. She’s been urging the ladies (many of whom are the breadwinners at home) to take on more roles of leadership, even if they’re uncertain. She notes, “They’ve never encountered any social narrative that makes them believe they can do anything men do, even if they’re physically doing so.”
A safe haven for staff
“I keep reminding my team that ‘labour’ is not just a set of numbers on a spreadsheet, but humans”, explains Savera. “So, while attempting to bootstrap most operations, cut costs, and remain efficient, we have to keep our staff happy with free delicious meals, music, transport, etc. Plus, the average age in the factory is borderline retirement as all the fiesty aunties employed may not get another opportunity to find a job if they leave. In that way, we’ve become a safe haven for them. Not the greatest for our productivity, but fantastic for the community!”
Barriers to equal opportunity
The list here is long and painful. One aspect that Savera highlights are the Sri Lankan mothers who have expectations for their daughters to be able to take care of themselves, but wait on their sons hand-and-foot have rendered grown men helpless and entitled.
Beyond this, any women, young and old, don’t realize that asserting their basic human rights is an option. Those who do sometimes find their very existence or livelihood threated. There are also women who experience harassment – personally or at work but can do nothing about it. From Savera’s perspective, her view is simple, “This is the way things are, so you can either complain about it or do everything in your power to change it. Silence will only add fuel to the fire.”
Something No One Knows About Savera:
“I was 8-years-old in Africa and found myself on the back of a runaway female ostrich. After 15 rounds around the enclosure and many failed attempts, the handlers were able to calm the frisky thing down and reign her in.”
This article was originally published as ‘Repackaging Feminism’ in the March 2018 issue of Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka. For more career advice, grab a copy of our latest magazine.
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