For nearly three decades, Sri Lanka was scarred by a bitter civil war driven by ethnic tension for many years. Much of the Mannar District was under the control of the rebellious Liberation tigers of Tamil Ealam.
The fact finding report by the association for women’s Rights in Development in Canada of June 29, 2011 records that in 2009 war alone has rendered 40000 women as homeless, landless widowed.” Widowhood is a global issue. All over the world the widows go through more or less the same pain in their struggle to survive.
As one widow righty says, ‘I feel restless to the very core. I feel like everyone else’s life is moving, and I stay in the same place. Like I’m running on a treadmill as fast as I can, and everyone else is jogging past me on solid ground, waving. Some of them are cheerfully enjoying the exercise, others are complaining about how tired they are, but their lives are still moving past mine while I struggle and sprint and still stay in one place.’
As a result of the war the people at Thevanpitty and Mulankavil dispersed, disappeared and were killed. When they returned in 2010 after the war, they found themselves alone with their children without the head of their families. It was a severe traumatic period for the women folk. They felt insecure without the powerful hands of their husbands to protect them, earn for them and be a support to the family. Zoa, a Netherland funding agency has contributed to the material and financial sustenance of the women headed families.
The widows of these villages are God fearing. They go to church for prayers every morning and gather at the church again at 12 noon to pray. They find security, power and strength in God. They also believe that ‘When love is lost, they should bow their head in sadness, but should keep their head up high and gaze into heaven, for that is where their broken hearts have been sent to heal”.
“The turning point in the process of growing up is when you discover the core of strength within you that survives all hurt” as Max Lerner says and accordingly slowly but steadily their livelihood is transformed.. They have learnt the trades of their husbands and have become the breadwinners of their families. It is remarkable to see the women in these two villages go to the sea and to the lagoon for fishing like their husbands.
Apart from social, economic and legal hardships, the widows are subject to different forms humiliation. They are considered as a bad omen in many Sri Lankan rural areas. They are marginalized by their own communities and often subjected to extreme forms of discrimination and physical, sexual, and mental abuse. Therefore, widowhood represents a form of “social death” leading them to numerous psychological ailments. As Ed Payne states in “Collateral Damage” “If men were the principle casualties of the War, these widows represent its collateral damage.”