This profile was prepared when Karunawathie Menike was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2004.
The New Idea
Karunawathie proves that the poorest citizens of Sri Lanka are capable of competing in national economic markets and thriving without government handouts. She first helps villagers secure economic independence by establishing savings groups and supporting business ventures through small loans. Once they are able to provide for themselves, she helps them develop an awareness of their rights. Using this awareness she pushes villagers toward active and responsible citizenship, and equips them to hold their government accountable to standards of integrity and transparency. Finally, she promotes new kinds of philanthropy among the local rich to sustain long-term development projects for the stressed arid zones.