Samadanie Kiriwandeniya, Managing Director, SANASA International Pvt. Ltd shares her thoughts on their partnership with CDF Canada and the work we have undertaken together.
The Rise of the Sri Lankan Co-op Movement
When looking at the international assistance and support provided to develop the cooperative movement in Sri Lanka, it is not wrong to state that Canada stands out. Canada is one of the commonwealth countries, and M. Alex Laidlaw, who had been the head of the commission conducted on the cooperatives in Sri Lanka, gave birth to the credit union movement in the country.
In the early 1990s, when the Canadian Cooperative Association (CCA) supported the emergence of credit union networks in Asia and strengthened women’s participation in it, SANASA and CDF Canada began their work together. SANASA learned from different cooperative models in the Canadian cooperative system through this partnership, while Canadian cooperatives learned about the Asian cooperative movement.
The most remarkable value addition that CDF made for the growth of the SANASA movement was by supporting the establishment of the SANASA Development Bank. In 1996, SANASA Federation obtained a banking license, which mobilized capital to form its bank. But later, the minimum capital ceiling was raised by the central bank of Sri Lanka, making it very difficult for the local cooperatives to obtain the license.
Finding Solutions Together
In order, to overcome this new obstacle, an invitation was sent by Sanasa Federation to all the foreign development investors. CDF Canada was the only partner that contributed 100,000 US dollars to SANASA Federation, helping to form SANASA Development Bank in 1997 and create a landmark achievement for the credit union movement in Sri Lanka; to which Sanasa is very grateful to CDF for believing in the vision and supporting this process.
Apart from this, CDF had been helping SANASA empower female leadership and entrepreneurship. One such example was CDF Canada’s technical assistance which helped to establish the women’s business school at the SANASA campus and the national women’s committee of the SANASA Federation. Two fantastic women-centric organizations.
During the Tsunami devastation in 2004, CDF Canada and CCA responded promptly to SANASA to develop a rebuilding program. This effort enabled the SANASA movement to further improve its assistance to women by synergizing all efforts under one organization.
Co-ops helping co-ops – Building Success Stories, Together!
In summary, I would like to say that cooperatives are all about working together and building solutions together. Mutual respect, willingness to learn from each other, complementing, and assisting when needed are some building blocks of true cooperative partnerships. In our six-decade journey working with CDF Canada, they have been a bridge to link us with the faithful cooperators of the Canadian cooperative movement. The Canadian cooperative story and the story makers are so strongly connected with our story. We think of them fondly and with great appreciation. Many congratulations to CDF Canada for its remarkable journey, and I wish the team who nurtures CDF and its noble mission much success.