Sri Lanka

Economic Recovery and Reintegration of COVID 19 affected Returned Female Migrant Workers

RECOVER is a project implemented by HELVETAS Sri Lanka, funded by the Australian High Commission under its Direct Aid Program. The project is focused on  economic recovery and reintegration of COVID 19 affected returned female migrant workers  through facilitation of skills development and provision of livelihood support.

  • Project Name
  • Project Phase
    2020 to 2022
  • Funding
    Funded by Australian Aid
  • Thematic focus
    Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion
«The project aspires to actively engage with state and non-state stakeholders to support returned female migrant workers affected by COVID-19-related developments and shocks in Gampaha and Puttalam districts.»

The project directly benefits a group of most vulnerable 200 semi-skilled/unskilled female returned migrant workers, with priority given to female-headed households, low income households and women with differently abled dependents. The intervention will also involve 60 government officers to facilitate improved services returnee migrant workers at a district level.

Project Background

The RECOVER project has supported the economic recovery and reintegration of over 200 female migrant workers from the districts of Puttalam and Gampaha who were compelled to return to Sri Lanka due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The project intervention improved their economic prospects by ensuring access to sustainable income generation or employment opportunities, while also facilitating an enabling environment for thousands of other returnee migrant workers to reintegrate into society while avoiding the risks of human trafficking, illegal smuggling, psychological distress, and trauma.

 As per available statistics, from the total migrants who returned to the districts of Puttalam and Gampaha since April 2020, well over 80% were women, mostly from the unskilled and informal sectors. These two districts also record high numbers of human trafficking and smuggling incidents, thus, resulting in a high potential for these returnee migrant women to fall victim to unethical recruitment practices, smugglers, and human traffickers owing to their extreme socio-economic vulnerabilities. Thus, supporting access to sustainable economic opportunities not only sought to ensure their smooth reintegration into the local economy but also the psychosocial well-being of these returnee migrant workers and their family members.

The project has provided technical and resource support for livelihoods while collaborating with the state and non-state sectors to foster sustainable economic opportunities and alleviate poverty. Furthermore, to ensure the intervention follows a holistic and sustainable approach, orientation and refresher workshops on combating Trafficking in Persons (TiP) for government officials, to enhance their knowledge of TiP vulnerability factors, the available supporting mechanisms, and methods of victim referrals were provided to further strengthen the support mechanisms available for vulnerable returnee migrant workers. Both online and offline campaigns were conducted as part of the project intervention, reaching an audience of over 100,000 direct and indirect beneficiaries, thus further increasing awareness of TiP.

Key Milestones

Training on combating Trafficking in Persons for Government Stakeholders – Gampaha and Puttalama District Migrant workers often face exploitation and abuse during their employment in foreign countries. Upon their return, they may also face vulnerabilities such as stigma, social exclusion, and re-victimization. Therefore, it is crucial to provide support and assistance to these workers to ensure their safe and dignified return to their home country. The training enabled the CAs and DOs to reflect on the challenges faced by the migrant workers who have been repatriated to Sri Lanka amidst COVID-19 challenges. The training provided deep but contextual insights into the socio-economic and psychological impediments that the migrant returnees encounter once they are forced to return to their country of origin. The discussions in the training also paved the way for the participant’s broader understanding of the support role and the protection services that should be facilitated to reduce the increased vulnerabilities of the migrant returnees.


Psychosocial and legal support orientation workshop

The Psychosocial and Legal Support Orientation Workshop successfully catered to the needs of 200 female migrant workers hailing from the Puttalam and Gampaha districts of Sri Lanka. These individuals were forced to return to their homeland due to the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. The primary objective of the project was to enhance their psychosocial well-being and legal awareness while fostering improved economic prospects.

Workshop on business plan and preparation and career development

The Business Planning Training Workshop was a resounding success, benefiting 200 female migrant workers who found themselves back in Sri Lanka's Puttalam and Gampaha districts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This project was strategically designed to enhance their economic outlook by equipping them with the skills and knowledge needed for sustainable income generation and employment opportunities.

Training programs on Technical and soft skill provision

The Technical Training Workshop, encompassing diverse fields such as Garment and Textile, Cultivation, Food Production, and Pottery, has marked a significant milestone in the lives of female migrant workers who were compelled to return to the districts of Puttalam and Gampaha in Sri Lanka due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This comprehensive project was crafted with the goal of enhancing their economic prospects by equipping them with practical skills that facilitate sustainable income generation and employment opportunities.


Providing selected small group enterprises with in-kind capital

The Distribution of In-kind Capital, amounting to LKR 3.5 million has successfully empowered 200 female migrant workers who were compelled to return to the districts of Puttalam and Gampaha in Sri Lanka due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Through the strategic allocation of in-kind capital, participants gained access to the necessary tools, materials, and resources needed to kick-start or enhance their entrepreneurial endeavors. This infusion of capital catalyzed these women to establish or expand their businesses, which spanned various sectors. By doing so, the project directly contributed to their financial independence and stability, fostering a pathway towards economic resilience.

Trade and Business Fairs

The Trade and Business Fair stands as a successful testament to empowering female migrant workers. This dynamic project was strategically orchestrated to elevate their economic prospects by providing a platform for sustainable income generation and employment opportunities. The fair showcased the entrepreneurial spirit and resilience of these returning migrant women, offering them a vibrant marketplace to display and promote their diverse range of products and services. Participants were able to connect directly with potential customers, investors, and collaborators, thereby expanding their customer base and market reach. This exposure not only facilitated immediate economic gains but also laid the foundation for long-term business growth.

Symposium on sharing of findings and handing over of the report to the SLBFE

The Symposium on Sharing of Findings and Handing Over of Report marks a significant milestone in the comprehensive effort to empower female migrant workers. This activity serves as a culmination of the project's endeavors, highlighting its success in enhancing economic prospects, fostering reintegration, and mitigating vulnerabilities. During the Symposium, key stakeholders, experts, and participants converged to share insights, experiences, and outcomes of the intervention. The event provided a platform for open dialogue and knowledge exchange, shedding light on the journey of these returning migrant workers and the project's transformative impact. The handover of the comprehensive report to the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) symbolized the culmination of rigorous research and implementation, encapsulating valuable insights and recommendations for future initiatives.

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