Women at the Forefront of Business Expansion in Chili Production

If you’re considering a trip to the Northern Province, do consider visiting the UNDP-supported ‘Punkuduthivu Food Manufacturers’ to purchase the ever-popular spicy Jaffna Chillie Powder and some home-grown gram products produced by the Social Education Center. Established in 2007, the Center, also known as Community Learning Center, is located on a small island of Punkuduthivu off the Jaffna peninsula.

It was during the post war era, that thirty seven year old Jayaseelan Thamalini, like many others, sought employment to provide for her family, which was not easy as job opportunities were scarce.  She started working at the Social Education Center in 2012 as a member of the production staff. At the Center, which was set up as a means of providing education through vocational training and skills development and thereafter job placement for successful trainees, Thamalini was given training primarily in rice and chili milling operations, producing processed green gram, black gram, chickpeas and kurakkan flour, chili powder, as well as value added vegetable products.

This is the only job Thamalini could find that would allow her to be close to her family. “I started off with an income of Rs.200 per day. I enjoyed my work and worked with a group of women to produce these various products”.


  • With 12,000,000 NOK (Norwegian Kroner) funding from the Government of Norway, NLDP III is creating opportunities and livelihoods for people in most vulnerable communities.
  • UNDP is working with seven Producer Organisations, who have a membership of over 2500 individuals and is building their production and marketing capacities. A special focus is being given to empower women through entrepreneurship and leadership development by giving them the opportunity to explore and make use of their abilities.
  • Youth are being afforded special recognition under this Project, through the Youth Entrepreneurship Development and Youth Leadership Development initiatives targeting over 350 young people.
  • With UNDP support, the programme is able to promote local economic development by adding value and diversifying means of production, enhancing the capacity and developing skills needed for communities to engage in sustainable livelihoods.

Four months into the job, in recognition of her hard work and commitment, Thamalini was promoted as Supervisor and thereafter Production Manager of the Center. “The Center has much potential, as we use genuine raw material to produce these food items. However we lacked the know-how and the technology to compete with the outside market”, says Thamalini. To further enhance the potential of the Center, UNDP conducted Business Planning training sessions for members of the Board and key staff, under Phase 3 of Northern Livelihood Development Project (NLDP) funded by the Government of Norway.

Through the management training she received from UNDP and (with the experience of being a Production Manager, Thamalini’s performance has received a fresh boost. She has become a more confident person and possesses leadership skills that allow her to successfully manage a production team of 13 women.

Today, Thamalini has reached a stage in her work where she has now been given the responsibility of overlooking the implementation of the new business plan through the expansion of the Center. Marketing under the brand “PFM” (Punkuduthivu Food Manufacturers), the Center has introduced two special varieties of coffee made from coriander and local berries. “I never imagined that I would reach this position and I’m thankful that the Center has placed their trust in me to spearhead this expansion”.

Under the Northern Livelihood Development Project III, the Center too has experienced significant expansions since its inception. The Project works to promote local economic development through enhancing market-based livelihood opportunities for vulnerable communities in the Districts of Jaffna, Killinochchi and Mullaitivu. Under this Project, UNDP typically works with Producer Organisations, such as this Center, (that) (who) have the potential to expand their business and provides them with strategic business management training and infrastructure improvement to support enhanced production and marketing. With the support of UNDP, the Center has now received a new building, machinery and trainings. 

As of 2016, Thamalini now earns more than double the salary from when she started.  “Today I am able to make a larger contribution to my family’s income as well as to the decisions we make as a family.”  She is now able to proudly contribute towards her family’s food and children’s education. Like any mother who thinks of her family’s future, Thamalini has also invested in a savings scheme for her children.

Having the means to do her job to her highest potential has given her the right to become the best of herself; a version of herself that has earned the respect of her family, relatives and community. She is in fact a testament that if given opportunities, every woman can assume leadership and be the forefront of change.

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