Mohamed Safras Mohamed Safwan

Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow, Class of 2021

  • Home country: Sri Lanka
  • College and degree: Masters in organizational Management - University Of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka and Bachelors in agriculture & plantation management from Wayamba University, Sri Lanka
  • Current position: District director, Department of Development - Ministry Of Finance of Sri Lanka (empowerment & social work) 
  • Specialization: Poverty eradication, small & micro entrepreneurship development, livelihood development, social security & protection, program management, civil society, community development and microfinance & entrepreneurial finance
What is the most memorable or impactful experience of your career so far? 

I have served to empower & train more than 10,000 families whose livelihoods had been severely affected by natural disaster (droughts) in 2017 in the Kurunegala District of Sri Lanka through speedy empowerment programs such as instant cash assistance, livelihoods assistance, delivering entrepreneurial finance and market linkage and more from the Sri Lankan government and the World Food Program. Also, I contributed to the national poverty eradication policies which are in line with UN sustainable goals 1 and 2. 

What impact do you want to make in your country?

With the outbreak of COVID-19, countries around the world are faced with a storm of crises (mainly social and economic) by which Sri Lanka is no exception. 74% of the population were living on less than LKR613 per day and, therefore, were already vulnerable to shocks. With COVID-19, families are even more vulnerable, and incomes have reduced significantly. Micro Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) play a vital role in the socio-economic development of the country. It is estimated that MSMEs contribute 52% to the GDP and are considered as the backbone of the economy. With this situation most of the economic activities were badly affected causing the MSMEs to undergo severe hardships. The daily wage earners (persons engaged casually or in the informal economy) were the most affected.

The challenge will be to implement measures to sustain businesses, minimize job losses and build resilience to safeguard the MSME sector. Also, there is a need to speed up standardized social protection transfers that can avoid food security and nutrition crises. Therefore, social protection transfers systems must be implemented. As the ministerial official in the field of social empowerment & poverty eradication, I hope to be an agent for change and develop solutions to keep track of sustainability through modern strategies to empower the people and their livelihoods. 

How do you think your Humphrey Fellowship and your time at Cornell will help boost your career? 

My professional goals for the coming year as a Humphrey Fellow at Cornell include: 

  1. to gain higher academic qualifications in agriculture and rural development,
  2. to learn new skills and practices in leadership,
  3. to enhance knowledge in social protection, empowering poor and micro finance, and
  4. to improve communication skills using new technology.

Through the Humphrey Fellowship program I will be able to undergo a thorough training with well reputed academic institutions and professional organizations where I will get the opportunity to collaborate with highly qualified and competent scholars. 

What does public service mean to you?

"Public service must be more than doing a job efficiently and honestly. It must be a complete dedication to the people and to the nation," said Margaret Chase Smith. I see public service as responsibility & accountability for what we do for the people and country as indeed a matter of people and livelihoods. 

What do you enjoy doing when you're not working? 

I am a nature lover and I love to travel and visit new places. 

What is your personal motto? 

Service first. 

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