Women Recovering fromConflict in Post WarSri Lanka: Needs and
AspirationsNational Stakeholder Consultation
Women Recovering from Conflict in Post War Sri Lanka: Needs and Aspirations
National Stakeholder Consultation
5 December 2013
Cinnamon Lodge, Habarana
This Consultation was hosted by Women and Media Collective
In collaboration withViluthu, Suriya Womens Development Centre, Muslim Womens Researchand Action Forum, Home for Human Rights and Rajarata Praja KendrayaBackground
As organisations working at the community level during the years of war in the conflict affecteddistricts of the Northern, Eastern and North Central Provinces of Sri Lanka it has been ourexperience that while war affects all communities and both women and men, it affected womenin different and specific ways.
Living through war and its consequences caused new forms of vulnerabilities for women while itexacerbated existing disadvantages. Addressing these in the immediate aftermath of the war andthereafter is a crucial component of recovery. This includes examining womens experiences interms of economic and social justice.It is in this context that Viluthu, Home for Human Rights, Muslim Womens Research andAction Forum, Suriya Womens Development Centre, the Rajarata Praja Kendraya and Womenand Media Collective began a process of documentation and evidence based analysis to explorethe impact of historical events i.e. in the context of the war and displacement years, on womenslives and how these events have impacted on womens abilities to rebuild their lives post war. Interms of the Sri Lankan Constitutions guarantee of equality to women and the Convention onthe Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), we analysed thisimpact through a framework of substantive equality and non-discrimination. We also used theprinciples set out in UN Resolution 1325 that deals with womens security and the enabling ofpost war recovery and peace. These frameworks allow for the recognition of challenges womenhave faced in the past and how these impact on them using some of the opportunities available tothem in the post war context.
ObjectiveThe overall objective of our work was to develop an evidence base of the impacts of war and thepost war context on women, particularly in regions that were directly affected by the conflict.Our work was in the following thematic areas and had the following objectives:
Female Headed Households (FHH)1
To provide a situational analysis of the conditions and options that FHH have in the currentpost war context.
To provide evidence related to womens access and control of the reconstruction andrehabilitation process initiated post war that can help support advocacy activities of theForum for Women Headed Households and Vilithu.
To understand the conditions of women affected by domestic violence in a post-war contextand the impacts it has on their families.
To broaden insight into the services women who are affected by domestic violence haveaccess to.
To gain a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the diverse and profound challengeswhich female ex-combatants face in post-war Sri Lanka and identify how they are coping.
To provide a contextualization of how female ex-combatants are coping in their respectivecommunities including socio, economic and security issues related to rehabilitated female ex-combatants who have been reintegrated into their respective societies
To emphasize areas that state and non-state actors can improve these womens lives.
To assess the impact of displacement, resettlement and extreme marginalisation on women'slives in accessing basic needs, livelihoods and income, land, services and information, safemigration and freedom from violence within the context of development programmes thatleave out women.
Woman and land5
To access the nature of land access by women in a region that was affected by war andunderstand the perspective related to womens access and rights to land.
The findings from each of these studies, identifying the impacts of the war that are present today,nearly five years after the end of the fighting were presented to sixty national, provincial, districtand local level policy makers and other relevant stakeholders from both government and non-
1Study undertaken by Viluthu, Centre for Human Resource Development2 Study undertaken by Muslim Women's Research and Action Forum (MWRAF)3Study undertaken by Home for Human Rights (HHR)4Study undertaken by Suriya Womens Development Centre5 Study undertaken by Rajarata Praja Kendraya
government sectors. The presentations were followed by engaged discussion and through thisprocess were able to propose some specific conclusions and recommendations for action.
Women Recovering from Conflict in Post War Sri Lanka: Needs and Aspirations
5 December 2013, Cinnamon Lodge, Habarana
Welcome and Introduction: Kumudini Samuel, Women and Media Collective
Moderator: Prof. SitralegaMaunaguru, Suriya Womens Development Centre
Presentation and discussion on Poverty and Marginalization of Women:Setheeswary,Suriya Womens Development Centre
Presentation and discussion on Female Headed Households:S. Hariharthamotharan, Viluthu
Presentation and discussion on Women and Land Rights: RupaGamage andSheelaRathnayeke, Rajarata Praja KendrayaModerator: ChulaniKodikara, International Centre for Ethnic Studies
Presentation and discussion on Violence against Women:Ms. U.L. Hafeela and Ms. A.M.S.JumanaHazeen, Muslim Womens Research and Action Forum
Moderator: ShanthiSatchchithanandam, Viluthu
Presentation and discussion on Reintegration of Female Ex-Combatants:RanithaGnanarajah,Home for Human Rights
Recommendations and Closure
The proceedings were conducted in Tamil and Sinhala with simultaneous translation
Each presenter provided a situational analysis and findings and recommendations for policy andother interventions. The presentations were based on the work of six organisations in thedistricts of Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mulaitivu, Vavuniya, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Kalmunai andAnuradhapura
1. Poverty and Marginalisationof Women (Batticaloa District)Suriya Womens Development Centre (SWDC) and Koralaipattu North DevelopmentUnion, Batticaloa (KPNDU)This study contributes to the overarching research focus,Women recovering from conflict inpost-war Sri Lanka, with an analysis of the poverty and marginalisation faced by women in the
Batticaloa District. Two villages affected by war were selected for data collection. Eighty-twofamilies from Village A and one hundred families from Village B participated in the study.
The discussion following the presentation of the study and its findings resulted in the followingrecommendations:
The study noted that the question of why women are not able to engage in sustainable livelihoodsand escape poverty remains despite the implementation of many state and NGO projects onwomen. It offered the following recommendations.
1. Increase the National Budget allocation for social security. The allocation for social securitybeing very low, further only a few people in the study area are able to benefit from it. Anincrease would expand this reach to more people.
2. Social security should be separated from credit schemes. Food stamps are issued for povertyalleviation and to ensure food security, but are sometimes used to set off loans. This use willfurther worsen womens impoverished conditions. Thus, food stamps should be kept separatefrom credit schemes.
3. Social security schemes should reach poor people directly. At the moment, projectsimplemented by NGOs and the government are not accessible to all poor persons.
4. Ensure sustainable livelihoods for women. At present, credit taken for the purpose of engagingin livelihoods may not be channeled towards that end; it may be used to settle old loans. It isnecessary to ensure that women are able to repay loans from livelihoods.
5. Loan issuing should be considered from a gender perspective siince it is taken for granted thatmen get the loans. A similar practice obtains for the Samurdhi scheme where funds are handedover to the husband (husbands specifically request this, in some instances). Thus it is not certainwhether these funds are utilised for what they were meant.
6. Leasing companies and lenders should be properly monitored and controlled, and thegovernment should ensure the provision of low interest rates, since leasing companies andprivate lenders charge exploitative interest rates that can be as high as between 50% to 100% ofthe capital borrowed.
7. Loan issuing should be done with sensitivity to the circumstances of poor women who had lostboth livelihoods and education and lack economic literacy.
6. Recognition should be given to womens informal work.
The investigators suggested that policy reforms at the national level could follow from theserecommendations. They called for more attention to be paid to roads that are not motorable, aswell as to infrastructure and transport facilities which remain inadequate, affecting childrensschool attendance and safety, and the marketing of produce amongst other things. They
emphasised that water supply remains an issue, since women have to walk long distances andwaste their time to access water. Distance to hospitals was also identified as a problem, as peoplehad to travel a long way to access those services.
2. Female headed households (Vavuniya, Jaffna and Batticaloa)Viluthu
In connection with the main research theme, the study on female h