Habarana Report: Women recovering from conflict in post war Sri Lanka

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Habarana Report: Women recovering from conflict in post war Sri Lanka


Women Recovering fromConflict in Post WarSri Lanka: Needs andAspirationsNational Stakeholder ConsultationWomen Recovering from Conflict in Post War Sri Lanka: Needs and AspirationsNational Stakeholder Consultation5 December 2013Cinnamon Lodge, HabaranaThis Consultation was hosted by Women and Media CollectiveIn collaboration withViluthu, Suriya Womens Development Centre, Muslim Womens Researchand Action Forum, Home for Human Rights and Rajarata Praja KendrayaBackgroundAs 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.Domestic violence2 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.Female Ex-combatants3 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.Marginalised women4 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 Kendrayagovernment sectors. The presentations were followed by engaged discussion and through thisprocess were able to propose some specific conclusions and recommendations for action.PROGRAMMEWomen Recovering from Conflict in Post War Sri Lanka: Needs and Aspirations5 December 2013, Cinnamon Lodge, Habarana Welcome and Introduction: Kumudini Samuel, Women and Media CollectiveModerator: 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, ViluthuModerator: MirakRaheem 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 ForumModerator: ShanthiSatchchithanandam, Viluthu Presentation and discussion on Reintegration of Female Ex-Combatants:RanithaGnanarajah,Home for Human RightsRecommendations and ClosureThe proceedings were conducted in Tamil and Sinhala with simultaneous translationEach 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 andAnuradhapura1. 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 theBatticaloa 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. Theyemphasised 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)ViluthuIn connection with the main research theme, the study on female headed households was carriedout in Vavuniya, Jaffna and Batticaloa in the post-war period. It aimed to elicit information onthe challenges that they faced at individual, family, and community levels. Qualitative andquantitative methods (including focus group discussions) were used in the research. The totalsample comprised 270 female headed householdsi.e. 90 per district. The investigatorsunderstood female heads of households to include widows, women who were separated,women who were married, and women who had never married. The definition of this categoryalso depended on how it was interpreted by the women consulted for the study. As theinvestigators explained, it is necessary to understand that women referred to themselves aswomen heads of households in a context where many husbands had gone missing or had beenkidnapped.The discussions resulted in the following recommendations:1. Government statistics regarding FHH vary at every level due to the lack of a universallyaccepted definition of FHH. An official definition for FHH must be arrived at in order toaccount for them in national plans.2. A majority of women in the study are confronted with multiple constrains. The studyrevealed that many of the women are psycho-socially affected by the war and by post warconditions and needed psycho-social counseling.3. FHHs access to livelihood opportunities especially those related to traditionallivelihoods that are being revived in war affected regions limit opportunities and add toconditions of poverty. In instances when women are involved in village activities, theyare more aware of rights and responsibilities and have better leadership skills. Initiativesneed to build on such successes and provide more opportunities so that women can moveout of poverty and improve their wellbeing.4. The creation of a facilitating environment is necessary to increase the livelihood optionsof the women affected by conflict in the areas under study. For this to happen, futureplanning process and development interventions need to consider carefully the scope inthe North and East, nature and burden of different livelihood options open to women inFHHs.5. It is necessary to identify a corresponding marketplace and to provide it when livelihoodssupport is considered. Livelihoods should be provided only on that basis.6. The process could involve discussions with bank managers and the creation ofmechanisms to provide credit facilities.7. Fertilizer and other subsidy schemes need to be open to women who engage in highlandcultivation.8. Since women are engaged in wage labour in the agriculture sector they should besupported to unionize.9. Government livelihood support programmes must have no age limit and be applicable toall women headed households regardless of age.10. A pension scheme for widows that provides for a living allowance must be implementedurgently. A special education allowance should be provided for children who live belowthe poverty line.3. Land rights issues related to war affected womenRajarata Praja KendrayaThe study on land rights issues related to war affected women was conducted in three villages inthe Vilachchiya and Kebithigollawa D/S Divisons. The survey included collecting historicalinformation on land use patterns in Anuradhapura. The presenter observed that women did nothave land rights in patriarchal societies, and that the youngest male child in the family was givenproperty. Two other observations were that the boundaries of agriculture lands were not marked,and that people were not obtaining registration for their land.The objective of the study was to find out the extent to which the women affected by war havelost their land rights and whether other parties have gained land rights. The investigators soughtcomparative information. They also collected information about government officers, thecommunity, the problems faced by women and the community when they had lost their land, andwhat kind of access to land was available to women affected by war.The moderator stated thatthe study had identified common problems such as lack of awareness on land rights, womensright to land, joint ownership issues, and militarization. The investigators noted that in the northeast and north central areas, the land issue was a burning issue and that the current forum offereda welcome opportunity to discuss it.The study proposed the following recommendations:1. Create an awareness programme on land rights for women in the Anuradhapura district2. Ensure that women have access to ownership of state land in their own right and amendthe Land Development Ordinance accordingly so that women can have joint title withmen to state land3. Calls on the state to ensure the rights of people living in the border villages who werealso affected by conflict and require assistance in post war recovery4. Calls on the government to include these areas and the people living in them in the designand implementation of post war policy including in the areas of resettlement, livelihoods,shelter and land ownership, particularly in relation to women5. Ensure that the original inhabitants of villages abandoned due to the war are resettled andgiven appropriate assistance to rebuild their lives with the gendered needs of women alsocatered for6. Ensure that the LLRC recommendations in relation to land was implemented in theAnuradhapura district7. Ensure that problems related to loss of documents due to war are resolved8. Establish an ongoing programme to promote human rights. The goal should be to convertpeople from a dependency mentality to a rights-based mentality9. Ensure that government officials working on land issues are gender sensitive and havethe interests of women in mind when they deal with land issues10. Create a government-NGO-private sector network to provide services, since NGOssometimes work in isolation although they work in these areas4. Study on Domestic ViolenceMuslim Womens Research and Action ForumThe study on women affected by domestic violence in the post conflict context was related to thework conducted by MWRAF in the Kalmunai area. In preliminary comments, the investigatorsstated that women suffered psychological effects as a result of domestic violence, and that it wasimportant to provide counselling. Women must be able to make decisions, and it was importantto work towards ensuring that they were courageous.Outlining their methodology, the investigators stated that their research was conducted through 3womens centres. The sample size was 56 case studies selected on a random basis fromNinthavur, Sainthamaruthu, Kalmunai, Neelavanai in the Ampara District and Malikaikaadu,Sainthamaruthu, Kalmunai, Natpittimunai, Pandiruppu, Maruthamunai, Neelavanai and Eravurin Eravur DS Division in the Batticaloa district. The participants in all case studies were Muslimwomen who were affected by domestic violence. The study used a structured question guide andincluded two or three visits to the womens houses. It also included existing information in thecase files at the MWRAF womens centres, from 2001-2012.The investigators stated thatalthough awareness programmes had been conducted for Mediation Board members particularlyon how to handle issues in cases of domestic violence, referring to the Muslim Marriage andDivorce Act, they observed that men apply for divorce when there is an issue and they do nottend to opt for a settlement (the rate of cases of settlement were very low in the Qazi courts). Incases where a man applies for a divorce in a Qazi court and makes that intention known, there isno space to compromise and no possibility to suggest approaching the Mediation Board. Theinvestigators reiterated that they aimed to provide relief to women in the appropriate ways.During the discussion there were calls for amendments to Muslim Personal Laws by some of theparticipants while others felt that this could not be done. An audience member made the pointthat Muslim Personal Law has been amended several times already, and it was not tenable to saythat it could not be done. She observed that the law includes provisions that are discriminatoryagainst women and also go against verses in the Koran, just as there are aspects in the Koran thatare not in the law.The Recommendations following the discussion were:1. Since the study found that women approached the Qazi Courts for resolution of familyrelated problems the Court should be gender sensitive particularly in matter of divorceand maintenance as well as second marriages2. The rights of the first wife should be protected and upheld in the case of mencontractingsecond marriages3. Ensure that Muslim Personal Law in connection with awarding women somecompensation after divorce is amended so that womens rights are protected. The methodof compensation should be legalized and the amount of compensation legally determinedso that Qazi Court judges cannot use their discretion in a way that is disadvantageous towomen4. Women judges should be appointed to the Qazi courts, in order for women to presenttheir issues confidentially.5. The law should be reformed to ensure that the dowry given at marriage, should bereturned to the woman at the time the divorce is finalized. This recommendation wasmade in the light of the present situation where women have to file a case after divorce toget their dowry back, and have to visit the Qazi court several times.6. The police need to be sensitized to accept complaints of domestic violence from womenand to use the Domestic Violence Act to ensure that women can obtain protection orders5. Female ex-combatants (Home for Human Rights)Home for Human RightsAfter the screening of the Home for Human Rights (HHR) film on female ex-combatants, thepresenters observed that the government report on how to address female ex-combatants was stillpending and insufficient action has been taken by the authorities to reintegrate them into society.They stated that HHRs objective in making the film was to ask if the rehabilitated womensreintegration into society was successful.Female ex-combatants face complicated challenges. The reintegration process has not gonesmoothly for the vast majority, and genuine assimilation remains a distant dream. Under highlevels of militarization, freedom of movement, freedom of expression and freedom of associationfor female ex-combatants have been greatly restricted. These women are compelled to live infear and many suffer from depression.Many of the women who participated in the interviews are Female Heads of Household. Theyhave the ability to take care of their family members, but they do not receive any support fromtheir respective communities. Ex-combatants need additional support and training to improvetheir lives.Additionally, many female ex-combatants are still missing husbands who fought alongside them;this has created profound problems. They need emotional support, but community members andgovernment officials have not been able to address this need.Some female ex-combatants have been forced to marry for their own protection, and these forcedmarriages have also created problems for women.Recommendations to Government of Sri Lanka and Civil Society Organizations:1. To allow female ex-combatants to enjoy to the full their rights as citizens of Sri Lankafollowing their reintegration into society.2. To create support and counseling services to meet the psycho-social needs of female ex-combatants in the countrys conflict-affected areas.3. To provide additional financial resources to female ex- combatants to defray the cost ofinfrastructure such as housing, toilet facilities and wells.4. To create additional livelihood opportunities for female ex-combatants.5. To ensure that local officials such as GramaNiladharis or Womens DevelopmentOfficers monitor the reintegration of female ex-combatants and provide additional support asneeded.6. To consult rehabilitated female ex-combatants on future policy/project design andimplementation.7. To allow civil society groups and community based organizations the opportunity to play amediation role to help/assist the combatants in the process of reintegration.8. To work with families and communities to which female ex combatants return to ensure thatthey do not discriminate against them or ostracize them from societyRecommendations to the UN and the International Agencies working on Post WarRecovery:9. To provide sex disaggregated data on rehabilitated ex-combatants.10. To ensure the right to Rehabilitation to all female ex-combatants.11. To advocate for female ex-combatants to enjoy their rights as citizens of Sri Lanka after theirreintegration into society and to use the principles enshrined in Security Council Resolution1325 to ensure reintegration12. To ensure health and psycho-social support for female ex-combatants in order to reducethe health issues and increase the emotional wellbeing of ex-combatants.13. To advocate for the expeditious conduct of investigations into complaints recorded at thelaw maintaining institutions and ensure that offenders are punished.ConclusionThe forum was brought to a conclusion with a presentation from the Research Coordinatoroutlining the next step in the process. In consultation with the five groups, she explained, theidea was to present the study in a way that policy makers will understand the findings, and thatwill not harm work at the local level. The Parliamentary Womens Caucus would be approached,and MPs from the government and from the opposition would be asked to identify key ministersand key ministries (Economic Development, Justice, Womens Affairs, Rehabilitation etc.), inorder to arrange for discussion in Parliament at the highest level, with the expectation that thefindings would be incorporated into policy. She emphasized that work at the local level remainedimportant, and that it was necessary to keep advocating and working closely with those whoimplement policy decisions at the local level.