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No support for families headed by women in Sri Lanka


TRINCOMALEE (AsiaNews): The Women’s Desk of the National Fisheries Solidarity Organisation in Sri Lanka has released a report on households headed by women.

Titled, Empower women-headed families, ensure right to life, the report says that in some eastern villages, there are families are without shelter.

It report adds that among those who do have housing, their homes lack doors and windows to protect them from the cold and, in many cases, sanitary facilities are a luxury, as only a few can afford them, even when they are shared by several families.

When children can go to school, there is often no money to buy books and they have to walk through dark streets that lack lighting.

The common thread among most of these families is that they are headed by women, as children have lost their fathers and women their husbands during the civil war. In addition to this, many men are currently being detained by the police under the suspicion they are sympathisers of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers).

In recent months, representatives of the solidarity organisation met with 377 women from the villages of Pumphuhar, Kilikunjimale, Lovelane, Karamalaiuttu, Vilankulam, Muthunagar, Manayaweli, Salli, Weeranagar and Kappalthurai (Eastern province). The report it produced is based on interviews with 171 of them.

In 102 cases, women had lost their husbands in the war, or through accident or illness. In another 40 cases, the men have disappeared into the hands of the armed forces.

In seven cases, women had to take over the family after their husbands were disabled through wounds sustained during the war.

“In Manayaweli,” Devahi Sunil said, “we have major economic problems. We do not have a job and many of us do not have even a house. We would like to educate our children, but sending them to school is a dream. There is no money. The older ones who graduated are at home because they cannot find a job.”

She explained, “For years, we have not received any government aid. What we would like to have is help for our children and job opportunities for us and them. We need housing and to know what happened to our husbands.”

Twelve widows live in the village of Vilankulam. “All of them have serious economic problems,” Sundaram Theresa pointed out. “Our homes do not have doors or windows and without a job we cannot get the money to fix them or buy a meal for our families.”

She went on to explain that the lack of sanitary facilities has made matters worse. “Because of that, we have to go into the jungle,” she explained.

Public transport also bypasses the village, so children have to walk six kilometres every day to go to school. The main road in the village also lacks electrical lighting.

In the village of Kappalthurai, Chadrasekaram Kumarajee said, “We are 69 women heads of households. Twelve were abandoned by their husbands, who left the village to remarry. Without a job, it is hard to raise our children or send them to school.”

The coordinator of the organisation that produced the report, Lavena Hasanthi, said, “Each Sri Lankan citizen has a responsibility towards these women and their children, to value them and guarantee them the security they deserve. Today, they are the most vulnerable component of society. These families deserve a dignified existence.”


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