This study assesses rural women’s situation in reconstruction and rehabilitation of agriculture and the rural economy in areas emerging from conflict. The purpose is to ensure that gender issues are incorporated and that reconstruction and rehabilitation processes do not bypass women. The review focuses on the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka and certain areas of North Central districts and Uva provinces that border the North and East. The primary focus is on the North East province that bore the brunt of the armed conflict for almost two decades.
Sources include a wide range of published and unpublished documents prepared by various stakeholders that included the Government of Sri Lanka at central and provincial levels, the United Nations and its agencies, international non-governmental agencies, national NGOs including women’s NGOs, and individual and institutional researchers. Web resources were used extensively.
Field assessments supplement the analysis of literature. Fieldwork was carried out in Kappalthurai in the Trincomalee district and Naanthanvely Divisional Secretariat Division, Kalmunai in the Ampara district in the East; Kaththasinnakulam 215 B Grama Sevaka Division in the Vavuniya district, Neelvely in the Jaffna district, and a LTTE Controlled Area in the Mannar district 25 km from Mannar in the North; Kotiyagala in the Siyabalanduwa Divisional Secretariat division in the Moneragala district and Bo-atta in the Welikanda Divisional Secretariat Division in the Polonnaruwa district.7
The study conducted eight focus group discussions and developed case histories through detailed interviews and discussions with women in locations selected for fieldwork.
Additional persons consulted included officials of central government ministries responsible for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the North and East, the Gender Unit of the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and officials of the divisional secretariats. Programmes, projects and strategies were discussed with relevant UN agencies and members of the UN Gender Working Group. A member of the Standing Committee on Gender Issues set up during the peace talks was interviewed. The views on gender issues of officials and field level workers of national and international NGOs and community-based organisations were obtained.
The conflict zone of northern and eastern Sri Lanka consists of the districts of Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Mannar, Vavuniya and Jaffna in the North and Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara in the East. The eight districts that comprise the Northern and Eastern province cover 29 percent of the country’s land area, 60 percent of the coastline and over 24 000 ha of brackish water lagoons. An estimated 11 percent of the national population of 2001 live in the area studied.8 Population density and pressure on land is minimal compared with most other districts of the country.
Within the eight administrative districts are areas referred to as ‘cleared’ ‘uncleared’ and ‘grey areas’. The ‘cleared areas’, now under the control of the Government, include much of the district of Jaffna and a portion of the Mannar and Vavuniya districts in the North, and most of Ampara, Batticaloa and Trincomalee districts in the East. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) controls the ‘uncleared’ areas that include the districts of Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi and parts of Mannar and Vavuniya, and the smaller enclaves of Batticaloa and Trincomalee. The Government did not function in the ‘uncleared’ areas during the conflict period.9 Periodic military advances and retreats altered the borders of ‘uncleared’ areas from time to time, but since cessation of armed confrontations in 2002 the borders have been static. The ‘semi-cleared’ or ‘grey areas’ were unstable due to violent activities by armed and paramilitary groups.10 Government presence was limited and LTTE presence strong.
7 Grama Sevaka is the lowest administrative unit.
8 A full census of population could not be conducted in 2001.
9 The government continued to supply essential goods to the people in these areas.
10 Eelam People’s Revolutionary Front (EPRLF-East), Eelam People’s Revolutionary Front (Jaffna), People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE). Some members of these organisations have entered mainstream politics.