Mannar - Marginalized by society, the object of scorn, deprived of a job, often with young children or elderly dependents and no economic support. This is the condition of more than 2 thousand widows in the district of Mannar in northern Sri Lanka, who are living a double tragedy: they have lost their husbands in many cases to the war, and have been abandoned by the government. And, in the heart, they have only one desire: " to start living like everyone else."
Anthony Jesudasan, coordinator of Peoples to Peoples Dialogue on Peace (PPD), explains that the condition of widows has persisted for at least 10 years, the majority are Catholic (five Hindu families) and they require "all basic aid" to survive. The activist calls for government intervention, because “they too are an integral part of Sri Lanka".
According to data provided by Women's Development Society, there are 250 widows in the village of Vankalai: some live with their families, some others own land but have no funds to cultivate their fields and only 10 of them have recently received a house from the government.
The conditions of insecurity faced by women also affect children who can not go to school because they "lack the money to pay fees”. Before the war they held small jobs, as street vendors, seamstresses, crafts or trades women. "Today we are also deprived of hope," says a widow in tears. "We struggle just to find something to eat."
Widows with young daughters face a further problem: the dowry for their wedding, a distinctive element of culture that affects Tamil Catholics and Hindus without distinction. "The future husband asks for large sums of money - says a woman - that we do not have. We are very concerned about the future of our young women. "
Anthony Jesudasan works to provide widows hope for the future. "It would be enough - concludes the activist - to provide them with fishing nets. Women may rent them to male relatives and earn the minimum needed to survive".