As the name implies, Federation of Thrift and Credit Co-operative Societies of Sri Lanka, is the umbrella organization or the apex body of over 8000 primary societies dealing in microfinance in territories designated from the rural conclaves to the townships, ramified throughout the country inclusive of predominantly populated areas with Tamil speaking people in north and east of the country.
The Primary societies serving a membership population in designated areas are also referred as “Primary SANASA Society” in the village. The federation referred heretofore, represent the largest People Oriented Service Organization based on a cooperative philosophy.
Thus the Sinhala the language spoken by the majority uses a concise wording for savings and credit “SANASA”which was the name given to this peoples’ movement and hence the federation is also referred as SANASA Federation, and the peoples movement that it stands for is referred as the “SANASA Movement”.
The uniqueness of “Sanasa movement” in Sri Lanka and the brand name “SANASA” is that.
- It is the organization which follows a cooperative philosophy among
its membership and to the community.
- An independent organization operating on cooperative principles with a success story over 100 years
- Non partisan and non political in its service to humanity.
- SANASA family is comprised of all ethnicities and religious sects and castes as SANASA Community.
- Bottom up management style where each village entity guided by the center has the democratic right
- Utmost transparency from grass root level to the corporate institutions.
- Supremacy of the member to express opinion and vote.
Growing from four digit figures over hundred years ago, with the resurgence of the movement that originated in 1978 under the guidance of a charismatic leadership, today SANASA Federation fathers a membership of 20% of the country’s total population as direct and indirect membership of family units making Sanasa family and the community as a formidable social community from grass root level membership spread in to the most remote villages comprising farmers, field workers, teachers and town workers and other marginalized communities who are considered the just ordinary folk in the countries social strata.
The SANASA Community described above comprises Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities in every society followers of all faiths and different castes work together under the philosophy of cooperative values and principles as one community.
The SANASA Federation as the apex body and the umbrella for all the primary societies have maintained its integrity to all membership and served all the societies under its umbrella whether in the north and east where majority are Tamil and Muslim races or in the southern parts a mix and a majority Sinhalese.
SANASA Federation is one organization in the country that operated in the midst of a war that prohibited activity from south in the areas that were under terrorist authority. And today’s the bonds with the north and east people have become very strong for SANASA and many activities are in place for the federation and associates of SANASA.
Although the country historically had ingenious cooperative systems in the predominantly agri-based economy in the olden days, organized cooperative system took roots here with the BRITISH who ruled the country, With the alienation of land of the poor by the state for new plantations, brought inequality in resource sharing making the poor to be borrowers of uncouth money lend To save those working class and poor peasantry cooperatism took roots here as savings and credit societies under an act of the then legislature.
So in this way, the first SANASA Society came in to being in the year 1906. The growth of this micro finance institutions were not fast and subsequently the state run consumer societies took priority over the savings societies which turned out to be savings clubs for the village elite. But for the marginalised who were deprived of basics of life did not have to continue in that apartheid state, a charismatic leadership who stepped down from the ladder with a vision to empower the marginalised, started his work from grass root level in a hamlet in Kegalle, serving in Walgama credit/savings society. He foresaw the potential that cooperative philosophy has in empowering the marginalised by working together to resolve their problems of need and want.
So he dwelt on a mission, with the vision he envisioned to group the scattered savings societies together making the marginalized aware the need to address their issues and bring solutions by themselves, amassing the resources in the village for the use of the village.
He formulated a three tier system with the growing primary societies that were proliferating with the renaissance of SANASA. The SANASA societies now came under its brand name and also not isolated but as a people movement to empower the have-less.
The resurgence of the 1978 gave rise to “The SANASA Movement” with its village level societies affiliated to a district union which handles all matters of the societies in the district while all island-wide districts were affiliated with a central apex body “The SANASA Federation” or “Federation of Thrift and Credit Cooperative Societies in Sri Lanka”.
With the reckoning made possible with the structural base from grass root level to the top the state moving to divert poverty alleviation programs for the common man SANASA Federation and the district bodies were utilized in dissipation of funds.
The leadership moved out to explore opportunities in the global cooperative arena and tied up SANASA Federation with international cooperative alliances and to date we are active members of
- International Cooperative Alliance (ICA)
- Asian Confederation of Credit Unions (ACCU)
- International Raiffeisen Union (IRU)
- Centre for International Cooperation in Agricultural Banking (CICTAB)
Besides, we have been selected by Robo Bank of Netherlands, World Council of credit unions and other world cooperative associates to work out their programs and hence SANASA was made internationally known with the global associations SANASA Federation made in the ensuing years from 1978.
Basically SANASA Federation as the apex body of the SANASA movement is the spokesman, the representative on behalf of the SANASA community countrywide, dealing with the state cooperative authorities and spelling out the cooperative policies and dealing on issues related to SANASA with state institutions, National Cooperative council and other cooperative institutions.
Internationally SANASA Federation is connected with all cooperative federations of the world and is a member of all international and regional cooperative bodies.
- Spelling out cooperative policies to the societies guiding the managements on good governance, constitutional areas.
- Representation of the SANASA in international conferences.
- Workshops conducted at society level.
- Organizing village leaders for attendance for international cooperative forums and workshops.
- Organizing cooperative national events, religious programs in association with the SANASA associate organizations to the SANASA community.
- Involvement in national development and other programs of the state, such as health programs, dengue eradication, aids control, and social programs for nation building.
- Liaise with other local and foreign non profit organizations for common programs.
- Ascertaining training needs of village leaders’, members and staff of SANASA societies and guiding them for programs, conducted by SANASA Education Campus in Paragammana, Kegalle.
- Liaise with international bodies for programs to be conducted in the country.
- Organizing study groups for exchange of cooperative knowledge and different micro finance practices.
- Acquisition and dissemination of global cooperative information.
- Assist associate firms where necessary.
- Communication of SANASA society activities monthly by the publication of monthly Sanasa News bulletin.
- Maintain statistics relating to SANASA primary societies.
- Production of publications inclusive of annual statistical report.
While the three tier system of the SANASA Movement was gaining ground in an economy that was being opened for a free market economy the leadership felt that the movement has to make amendments to fit itself to be competitive and fulfill the needs of the common people with new demands on them;
A new wave of thinking emerged of development of a “Four Pillar Structure”.
- “Bank”for the common people who were bereft of such opportunities to be bankable.
- “Insurance”organization that cushion the small people from risks to be affordable by them.
- “A Center for Education”on Cooperatism and other skills which were so much needed for their empowerment.
- “Communication”to link people for information.
- “Production and Marketing”enabling the producer to get best prices and for the consumer to be protected from the clutches of middle men.
Also to have its own infrastructure development done without being dependent on market a “Construction Outfit”too was planned out.
Hence the federation, as the apex body reached its membership with the drive assisted by its mentor Dr P.A. Kiriwandeniya the federation was able to build share capital from the SANASA Family and the Associate Firms of the movement were established in stages to compete with the corporate giants of the markets to serve the common man as registered companies under the company act but in line with the cooperative philosophy of serving the people as prime concern over maximization of profit..