While the political representatives of the North work on solutions for the ethnic question and other long-term issues of the people. It is also important that they do not ignore the possible repercussions of the prevailing social issues in the North
Last week saw the entire Northern Province virtually coming to a standstill over the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in Vavuniya.
The public blocked the main A 9 highway demanding justice for Harishnavi who was brutally raped and murdered. This is the second largest public reaction after a similar incident in May last year, where another school girl, Vithya, was raped and murdered in Punguduthivu.
The Northern Province, until the recent past was plagued with the 30-year-old war which erupted as a result of the ethnic question.
Such social issues, though prevalent, took a back seat since there was a much bigger problem of life and death. Today, the absence of war has brought out these social issues of the North to light. However, these incidents are not limited to the Northern Province alone. The recent past has seen several incidents where innocent children have had to undergo situations that no human being should go through.
The Northern Peninsula, however, has its own stories to tell the world. For thousands in the North, the war did not end in May 2009. Many continue to live problems that were inflicted on them by the war. The guns might have been silenced, but their wounds will take time to heal.
One of the major issues that authorities and officials working in the former war-affected areas had to face was several social issues that came into being as an indirect result of the war.
Every single household in Kilinochchi and Mullaittivu were affected one way or another by the war. Many lost loved ones, and many more lost their limbs. Rehabilitating these families was an immediate need at that time.
War resulted in many families losing their bread winners. Therefore, this compelled the women in their families to take up the responsibility to look after their respective families.
But, the challenge does not end there. Women who head households continue to face issues because of society.
Head of the Centre for Women and Development, a non-governmental organization based in the North, Saroja Sivachandran said that women continue to be in vulnerable situations simply because they have to single handedly look after families while protecting themselves. “Many of these women are young. Therefore, they are vulnerable to several problems at home and even their workplaces,” she said.
On the one hand, the government has initiated several measures to provide livelihood assistance to families affected by the war. However, Sivachandran also pointed out the need for these women to feel secure and safe.
Another crucial factor that came up post war was the issue of unemployment. In a post-war environment, it was essential that young men and women be employed for two main reasons. The first is that that they could provide financial assistance to their families. The second is that these young minds should never be allowed to idle.
Many of them have lived with violence and therefore, keeping them idle without jobs would result in them choosing the wrong path once again.
A recent report by the World Bank pointed out that Mullaittivu and Kilinochchi, both affected by war, were the worst hit by poverty. One of the key reasons pointed out as a cause for this situation was the lack of access to labour market.
Government officials in Mullaittivu admitted that they had not made the expected progress in terms of providing job opportunities to the youth as expected.
But, the fact of the matter is that these former war zones are still in the process of coming out of their problems. While it is important to provide them with the necessary livelihood assistance and vocational training, it is also important that the social issues that cropped up in the immediate aftermath of the war do not stifle the progress made by these people.
While the political representatives of the North work on solutions for the ethnic question and other long-term issues of the people. It is also important that they do not ignore the possible repercussions of the prevailing social issues in the North.It is important that violence against children does not spread again.