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Sri Lanka: Don’t forget the war widows

As Sri Lanka recovers from 30 years of war, a great deal of attention is being given to infrastructure development.

In the eastern region of the country, the roads are super smooth, while school buildings and hospitals have been improved and rebuilt.

In the north, which was severely affected by the war, railroads are being reconstructed, roads are being improved, bridges are replacing ferries and big businesses from the commercial capital are launching themselves big time.

I met Maria Calista (pictured) in Jaffna, a widow who is raising four children with Save the Children’s support, who reminded me of the vast number of war widows in Sri Lanka.

According to Women’s Cultural Centre, there are  26,300 widows in Jaffna Peninsula alone. This figure gives us a sense of the gravity of the problem in the north, as Jaffna is only one of the four districts in the Northern region.

Obviously, women such as Maria Calista need financial support to make a sustainable income. In her case, with the 40,000 rupees (350US$) offered by Save the Children, she runs two businesses – selling firewood and sewing clothes.

But widows also need psychological support to move on. Their self-esteem and courage have to be restored. Constant assurance of a better tomorrow for her and her children has to be provided. 

We have been working with widows since the early 1990’s and the experience and expertise is still not lost. Jaffna has a very strong psychosocial support group who are waiting to extend their services to anywhere it is required.

When programmes are planned for resettlement and rehabilitation, widows should be given priority attention particularly on their mental well being.

Let’s also not forget the widows in the South either, who receive thier deceased soldier-husbands’ pension, but still find hard to deal with the loss.

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