Thousands were affected due to the war in the North and East. Among them were women, who lost their husbands, relatives, children and limbs too.
Today, these women have become heroes on their own right for surviving the trauma and tragedies that they had to face during and after the war.
Over six years may have passed since the war ended. But, the woes faced by the women did not end with the silence of the guns.
Apart from the usual multiple roles that a woman has to juggle in her daily life, these women were compelled to take up roles of being the breadwinners of their families after their husbands or loved ones were killed or injured by the war.
They not only have to protect their families, but also themselves from society.
Director of the Jaffna based Centre for Women and Development, Saroja Sivachandran states that there are approximately 89,000 war widows in the North and East of the country with the former accounting for 53,200 of them. The drastic changes in numbers are quite natural since the final phase of the war in the Wanni was considered the most intense, for the simple reason that it was final bastion of the LTTE. According to Sivachandran, there are 40,000 women-head households in the North.
After the end of the war, special attention was given for the war-affected people in the North, especially the women and children who were considered vulnerable. “Being a breadwinner or a single parent is not easy in the Wanni,” Sivachandran pointed out.
Sivachandran has a valid point. Traditionally widows or single parents are not treated the same way other women are. They are treated differently. Therefore, it is not easy for them to get along in life.
The other factor that affects these women is the issues pertaining to societal perceptions. Let’s face it. Even though we live in an era where women can come to the fore regardless of their situation, the situation is different in several parts of the country.
“Most of these women are young and therefore have been vulnerable to several social evils after the war,” she said. In addition, women are faced with more danger in a post-war environment. “The situation becomes complicated because the people do not know how to recover from traumatic situations. Many families are broken. Therefore, the single women are at risk most of the times,” she said.
The other hurdle is to find a suitable job to get a stable income. Most of the women are pushed to start from scratch. “There are issues at workplaces too where bosses ask girls to do overtime. In such cases, there should be a system to ensure that the girls are safe. The workplaces should ensure that the girls have transport facilities to get back home, because most of them live in interior villages,” Sivachandran pointed out.
The government did provide the necessary facilities that are needed initially for them to start off. The women were provided with equipment for agriculture and home gardening and also vocational training on various sectors.
Government Agent of Mullaithivu, Roopavathi Ketheeswaran earlier stated that the government was aware of the challenges faced by women and added that they were provided with the necessary backing as and when possible.
However, the job does not end when they are provided jobs and facilities. These women have to live their whole lives looking after themselves and their families. Their dreams and expectations of a happy life were shattered by the war.
Almost seven years down the line, these women have proved that they can face whatever challenges that come their way despite their losses. Yes, they have received support and backing, but no one knows their agony more than them, and they have managed to survive despite life being unfair to them.They are war heroes too.