The armed conflict which ended six years ago, has left a significantly high number of war widows and female-headed households (FHH) predominantly from the Northern Province, struggling to make ends meet.
Due to the demise or disappearance of the male breadwinner in their households in the armed conflict, these women have become the chief breadwinner in their homes. Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2012/13 estimates that among 5.2 million households, 1.1 million (almost a quarter of all households) are FHH. The majority of them are in the age group of 40-59 years and have studied up to grades 6-10. Out of desperation for a livelihood most of these women have taken on menial jobs in order to feed their children and look after their disabled family members.
Bhawani, a 44 year old widow from Kilinochchi, finds it extremely difficult to bring up her three children – aged 6 to 14. “I am unable to leave home to find employment especially since my 10 year old son is disabled” she lamented. Bhavani was one among 25 widows who received SLR 30,000 grant from the Missions and Evangelism Department of the NCEASL for a livelihood. With no previous experience, Bhavani has courageously embarked on poultry farming to support her family’s growing needs. “I bought 50 chicks from the grant I received. The local vet advises me on rearing the chicks” explained Bhavani adding, “I hope to sell the eggs to the nearby market.”
Kuganeshwary (46 years) also widowed by the war, still cannot get over the loss of two family members – her husband as well as her son. She strives single-handedly to do her best in looking after her 24 year old son who is disabled and her only daughter of 14 years who is still schooling. Her only resource to start a livelihood venture was a quarter acre of land. With the grant she obtained from the NCEASL’s Missions and Evangelism Department she bought herself a cow and a calf. “I will sell the cow’s milk to my neighbours and hope to meet my family’s needs” explained Kuganeshwary.
In addition to rearing chickens and cattle, some of the other livelihoods commenced by the widows who received the grants from the NCEASL are sewing, rearing goats, cultivation and operating a grocery store. This programme has empowered these widows to restart their lives and live in dignity.
On 29th July we are felicitating women like Bhawani and Kuganeshwary who have proved strong, despite their circumstances. We hope to make their stories heard, while highlighting their accomplishments that have often been overlooked. The event also hopes to create a platform for initiating engagement between women from the South and the North, who have been directly affected by the armed conflict.