Summary report from workshop to raise awareness on current issues impacting war affected Tamil speaking women in Sri Lanka

Otthulaippu (Collaboration of Charitable Organisations) organised an interactive workshop on Sunday 27th September 2015 in London to raise awareness of the current issues impacting Tamil speaking women in Sri Lanka amongst organisations and individuals working towards the well-being of our communities.

The following is a brief summary from the workshop covered by the speakers. Separate material has been enclosed where provided by the respective speakers.

  1. Economic issues of Women / Female Headed House-holds by Dr Rajesh Venugopal (Lecturer in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies at LSE)
    • Vakarai FHH in 2007 – 20% adult women are widowed / separated
    • 1 in 10 Women married are under 15 years of age
    • 18% of the FHH receive on average Rs3,800 per month
    • Routine issues with FHH – not fully accepted by the society / stigma, sex predators, abuse etc
    • Challenges / Actions for us to work
      1. Social Inclusion - How can we achieve it? For further discussions
      2. No closure of deaths / disappearance of their loved ones – some are even tricked into confide / believe untruth – How can Otthulaippu assist?

  2. Specific issues facing ex-combatants by Dr Rajesh Venugopal (Lecturer in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies at LSE)
    • All these ex-combatants have surrendered
    • We don’t know how many surrendered prior to 2009, mostly in Batticalloa
    • Most of them joined at last stages of the war and therefore, young and uneducated
    • On average 13-16 years of age, youngest 9 years & oldest 32 years
    • Case studies covered:
      • Vanthaaramullai Dayalan – joined in 2006 at the age of 16; bomb fragments in head still and therefore getting headaches; only son; lost limbs and finger; one sister but unable to marry her off; loans being repaid by father
      • Malar – going to Peradeniya University; recruited when 13 years; escaped during the split; will not confide details of 2 years; evil relative blackmailing
      • Nirosha – Older girl in the family; refuses to talk; Prosthetic leg; 32 years of age; working 6 days at the factory to support younger sisters; Doesn’t listen to music or go out anywhere
    • Challenges / Actions for us to work
      1. Data collection – to understand the needs and provide support

  3. Tamil women and the psychological impact of Sri Lanka by Dr Mathavi Uthayanan (Radiologist, Nottingham University Hospital)
    • Presented slides
    • Manik farm sex abuse of women - 2009 to date government if refusing to accept
    • Army court of inquiry – does it work?
    • Psychological impact huge
    • Challenges / Actions for us to work
      1. Develop & strengthen psycho social projects to be able to provide psycho social support
      2. Consider possible test village for psycho social support
      3. Data confidentiality standards to be agreed and put in place
      4. We need a tactical and a strategic solution to protect the women against abuse and violence
      5. End goals – where do we want to get to? How do we measure? Caution: don’t under estimate

  4. Global Award winning project on agriculture for women by Chinmaya Mission CORD by Mr Shakthi Carthigesan, UK co-ordinator
    • CORD – Chinmaya Organisation for Rural Development and it’s work in Sri Lanka
    • Challenges / Actions for us to work
      1. Provide the global award winning project plan which was implemented in India for the benefit of Tamil speaking women as requested by Otthulaippu - Mr Shakthi / Mrs Gowri Mahendran (Sri Lanka)
      2. Feasibility study to be completed for implementation in Sri Lanka

  5. Making the Unemployed Graduates in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka 'Employable' Graduates by Mr MCM Iqbal
    • A well written paper was presented
    • Challenges / Actions for us to work
      1. Where to start with up-skilling the unemployed graduates?
      2. Complete a needs study of Mannar /Mullaitivu graduates as a pilot

  6. Underage and unwed mothers and issues by Ms Ingrid Kuresha Tjugum
    • Provided self background – very courageous and confident
    • Presented slides with four fold strategy to overcome the issues
      • Prevention
      • Assistance
      • Empowerment
      • Reintegration – very challenging

  7. Women & environment - Alternative energy / Waste disposal etc by Mr Sivakumar
    • A brief paper was presented on building / developing a model village utilising the local resources
    • To transform a dependent village to a sustainable village
    • Challenges / Actions for us to work
      1. How to choose the village for model village?
      2. Split the work amongst all organisations to work collaboratively

  8. Women & Co-operatives by Mrs Rajani Iqbal
    • A well written paper was presented
    • Capacity building and provide assistance for livelihood

  9. CICO (Cooperative Institute of Community based Organisations) by Dr Ahilan Nithyanandan
    • Revolving funds and it’s benefits – A paper by Mr Iqbal was included as part of the pack
    • Purpose of the set-up in UK of CICO and benefits to becoming a member of CICO

    General Challenges / Actions
      1. Tactical – WHH / FHH – encourage; empower; if works then do more of it; don’t fix if it ain’t broken;
      2. Perform survey / study / needs assessment - caution on data confidentiality / secrecy, fatigue of NGOs sourcing information but not providing any support for survival
      3. Collect & share existing data from individuals / organisations and start preparing a database – All
      4. Immediate survival of a family or assistance to families - Caution don’t encourage dependency syndrome
        • Co-operative model & benefits – Mr & Mrs Iqbal
        • Provide support and training to become self sufficient using locally available resources - Mr & Mrs Iqbal
        • Although food bank is a good solution, not suitable for our society at present
      5. Youth Employment report – Abhi Phatak to share the report which he is preparing for Palmyrah
      6. Concept paper for WHH – Rajani & Thilaka
      7. Increase awareness amongst children of equality & other anti-social behaviours – TBA
      8. Follow-up sessions to be organised – Rajani & Thilaka

    Conclusion / Feedback

    The session received positive feedback and happens to be first of its kind. The work required in Sri Lanka is huge, however, working collaboratively and considering the long term impacts to every resource we spend, we could become relatively successful. More such sessions are expected to be conducted to draw more workable solutions for our people. Diaspora need to re-think strategy to re-build our nation.

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