Two indomitable forces join hands

  • Uber and WIN come together for gender equality and female empowerment

By Nethmi Dissanayake

Arguably Sri Lanka’s largest food delivery platform, Uber Eats provides us with quite an interesting service, and has possibly the largest variety of restaurants and food businesses on its platform to engage with customers. As one of Sri Lanka’s largest food delivery partners, it also proportionally has an equally large base of courier partners, a substantial portion of whom are women. 

Committed to the idea of inclusive growth and recognising the need to nurture the careers of their female courier partners, Uber, in 2018, launched its own CSR project “Diviyata Diriya”. 

Diviyata Diriya (“encouragement for life”), is the umbrella initiative of all entrepreneurial programs conducted by Uber Sri Lanka – many of which focus on leveraging the power of the platform to facilitate financial independence for female communities. Since the launch of Diviyata Diriya in October 2018, Uber Eats has leveraged the power of the platform to secure greater financial independence for more than 100 women courier partners.

The “Diviyata Diriya” project provides support to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment amongst Uber Eats’ courier partners, and also leads the development of new programmes, with a special focus on food security and business needs.

Since the launch of this project in October 2018, Uber Eats has leveraged the power of the platform to secure greater financial independence for more than 100 of its female courier partners. Through Diviyata Diriya, Uber Eats strives to provide women of all professions a chance to be financially independent through benefits such as free insurance, a designated hotline, sanitation solutions, geo-blocking unsafe areas, and martial arts for self-defence. 

Taking another step forward in their bid to create an inclusive and nurturing work landscape, Uber has partnered with Women In Need (WIN) to launch a new CSR project geared towards women’s empowerment.

WIN is one of Sri Lanka’s leading local, non-profit, and non-governmental organisations, committed to the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls. For the last 30 years, WIN has been fighting for gender equality and standing up for human rights of women and girls by campaigning for a violence-free society. These two organisations are coming together to launch a new project, working collectively towards the physical and mental wellbeing of its female partners. 

The new project, which is being launched in partnership with WIN under Uber’s Diviyata Diriya CSR initiative, looks to provide Uber Eats’ female partners with bi-annual training on empowerment and personal safety. WIN will be giving access to their legal and counselling hotline. This training will include legal knowledge on the law and legal protections available, resources to contact if an incident occurs, and how to protect yourself during your work.

It will help boost confidence and emotional resiliency, and further empower these partners: Bhavna Dadlani

Uber Sri Lanka General Manager Bhavna Dadlani

To find out more about this initiative, this inspirational partnership with WIN, and what interested Uber Eats to commence such a project, Brunch spoke with Uber Sri Lanka General Manager Bhavna Dadlani.

“Uber Eats has been passionate about empowering females and marginalised communities from the time we launched. And there are currently more than 3,000 female courier partners on our platform,” Dadlani said, adding: “We are proud of the additional earning opportunities partnering with the platform has unlocked for them. However, we also realise that some women lack the confidence and emotional resilience needed to thrive. Through this partnership, our female delivery partners get access and support from WIN experts. Ultimately, it will help boost confidence and emotional resiliency, and further empower these partners.”

As a part of this project, Dadlani shared that Uber has given equal importance to the physical well-being and mental well-being of their female partners. Speaking further on why it is important to prioritise mental health at work, Dadlani said: “We believe mental health goes hand-in-hand with performance, and that Sri Lanka must pay much more attention to the mental health of its citizens. Physical wellbeing alone cannot help a person function at their fullest capacity. Functioning at full capacity requires physical and mental health. Women face more issues than ever before in society and many do not have the resources to deal with such issues. Therefore, as an organisation that places immense importance on the wellbeing of all our partners, we decided to focus on their mental health as well.”

With Uber looking to nurture women at work, Dadlani explained that WIN was a natural partner. “Women in Need is the foremost women’s advocacy organisation in Sri Lanka with over 30 years of hands-on experience in supporting and empowering women,” Dadlani said: “Given their experiences and expertise, we knew that they would be the ideal partner for our cause and would add value to our partners.”

WIN’s partnership would greatly benefit Uber’s female partner base and help reach those that would otherwise not have access: Savithri Wijeysekara

WIN Executive Director and Attorney-at-Law Savithri Wijeysekara

Brunch also spoke with WIN Executive Director and Attorney-at-Law Savithri Wijeysekara to learn more about WIN’s role in this new project and how they will be working on this. 

“Uber already has a female and LGBTQ+ empowerment initiative known as ‘Diviyata Diriya’, through which they promote wider participation of females and the LGBTQ community as partners on their platform,” Wijeysekara said, adding: “We realised that we had certain mutual goals in empowering the vulnerable population who need capacity building. WIN’s partnership with Uber would greatly benefit their island-wide female partner base and help reach those that would otherwise not have access to such services. This is in line with the goals and mission of WIN.”

Explaining her organisation’s contribution to this partnership, she explained that WIN’s involvement will be two-fold. Firstly, they will be offering Uber’s female partners access to their free legal services and counselling hotline to discuss any legal, SGBV, or mental health-related issues the female partners might be facing. 

And, secondly, WIN will also build capacities through legal awareness which is essential for their development, independence, and protection. And the training will be carried out annually by experts in the field in partnership with Uber.

Shedding light on how this project would benefit Uber’s female courier partners, Wijeysekara explained: “Partnering with Uber gives us a chance to empower women through the sharing of valuable ‘street smart’ knowledge, while also addressing their legal and mental health needs, which in combination would help them achieve their full potential. We feel these three pillars are essential in order to equip Sri Lankan women to successfully face the ever expanding and challenging demands of the 21st century, and one which is free of violence.”

While Uber Eats is making its customers’ lives easier by delivering food to their doorstep, they are continuously striving to make their partners’ lives easier and better as well. It’s exciting to see them partnering up with NGOs and advocacy groups such as WIN to initiate such projects which could potentially bring change into these hard-working women’s lives.