Female headed households and war widows have high visibility in policies, and projects primarily target their practical needs while ignoring the experiences of other women who survived the conflict.
Four major projects in conflict areas are the North East Community Restoration and Development Project (NECORD), North East Irrigated Agricultural Project (NEIAP), the North East Coastal Community Development Project and the UN Transitory Programme. One among projects implemented with bilateral donor assistance is the Integrated Food Security Project in Trincomalee.
NECORD offers overall relief and rehabilitation in both the ‘cleared’ and ‘uncleared’ areas of the NEP by improving living conditions and the well-being of communities, particularly those with significant proportions of internally displaced people. The project covers agriculture, fisheries, income generation, water supply, sanitation, health and rehabilitation of minor roads. It particularly addresses the most vulnerable population based on poverty levels, and recognises gender disparities in occupations and wages. It acknowledges inequitable distribution of labour and the additional strain on women who assume traditional male tasks, and identifies the need for appropriate projects especially in relation to micro enterprises. However, no NGOs implementing the project are women’s NGOs; the Community Based Organisations (CBOs) are male dominated; women are reached mostly through small organisations with limited capacity and outreach that channel micro credit to women for income generation.
The North East Irrigated Agriculture Project (NEIAP) of the World Bank addresses restoration of damaged small scale irrigation systems in 398 villages, 30 of them in the Jaffna district. It will expand in 2005-2011 to 600 villages. The project works to improve irrigation infrastructure and has a capacity-building component supporting NGOs for social mobilisation. The project director in Kappalthurai, the survey village in Trincomalee district, is a woman who selected Madar Sangam (Women’s Rural Development Society) to implement project activities because it was the most efficient CBO in the area. Officials implementing this project understood little of gender issues, but selection of Madar Sangam gave the project dynamism. Women have access to credit for starting micro enterprises, poultry keeping and grinding mills among other activities. Recognising women’s groups’ commitments, NEIAP gave priority to women’s organisations in several villages (Field assessments).
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) did not apply a gender analytical framework to the Emergency Provision of Agricultural Inputs to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) project; nonetheless the project appears to have positive affect on women’s practical needs. The project covers eight districts of the North and East as well as Puttalam and Anuradhapura districts. It supplies IDPs with vegetable seeds, fertiliser and hand tools to commence agricultural activities on homestead plots, and trains participants in modern agricultural practices. Women were trained in food processing income generating activities, such as milling black gram and other crops, and drying fish. Of the 5 500 families that received emergency provisions 16 percent were female-headed households, 5 percent had a disabled member and 12 percent were landless.17 Widowed families received preference.
The Emergency Rehabilitation of Quality Seed Production in Conflict-Affected Areas of Sri Lanka, also funded by FAO, is more development oriented than the former. The project benefits resettled IDP farming families and other farmers. It selects 200 or more progressive farmers to produce quality certified seeds through a contractual seed grower scheme. The project targets a minimum number of women farmers from each district to produce seeds (Field assessments).
The fisheries sector of FAO will establish three fish reception and handling centres in Jaffna, to be managed by Fisheries Cooperative Unions that will provide cold storage facilities, refrigerated trucks and solar driers. The project opened job opportunities for women’s groups in fish drying and processing.
The Integrated Food Security Programme (IFSP), a development project sponsored by the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), supports the Department of Agrarian Services and the farmer community in rehabilitating minor tanks and enhancing the capacities of farmer organisations in the Trincomalee district. The project serves 272 farm families selected from subsistence farmers, small farmers, landless labourers, fishermen, female headed households, orphans and unemployed youth who face food insecurity. Project evaluation recognises increased participation by the village community, increased food security, and improved health and nutrition of infants and children. Participants express a high satisfaction of asset creation and community mobilisation (Schenk and Srimanobhavan, 2003). GTZ includes gender as one of four issues to be addressed, but no data are available on the women beneficiaries or the quality of their participation. Lacking a specific strategy to empower women, a tentative conclusion is that although women may have benefited from the IFSP their long-term strategic interests will not have been met (IFSP, 2002; Korf and Bauer, 2002).18
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) administers 11 projects in Jaffna, 10 in Vavuniya, three in Mannar, four in Trincomalee, two in Batticaloa and one each in Ampara and Kilinochchi. Agriculture and fisheries projects predominate, most of which operate through cooperative societies for fisheries, seed production or for multi-purposes. Some women benefit directly, others indirectly as members of beneficiary families. The projects could marginalise women, as their participation in cooperatives is not on par with men.
Rehabilitation and reconstruction of the North and East are undertaken within the Triple R Framework developed through a consultative process that recognised stakeholders’ different roles, perspectives and responsibilities. The Framework defines clear roles for government ministries and departments at all levels. Government agencies are mandated to ensure gender equality although the proposed coordinating committees are expected to address women’s empowerment. Virtually no women are represented in decision making positions or in implementation.
The multiplicity of institutions with varying responsibility for reconstruction of the North East, and the shortage of personnel have serious implications for project implementation. Overlapping agencies’ functions confuse the ordinary citizen (Field assessments). The complexity of rehabilitation and reconstruction and the absence of effective coordinating mechanisms are major drawbacks. Administration must maintain an ethnic balance in areas of ethnic plurality, must implement projects in both ‘cleared’ and ‘uncleared’ areas and in relocated and original communities and must focus on vulnerable groups while ensuring that host communities are not disadvantaged. The administration is limited by its limited institutional capacity to implement and coordinate the large number of government and externally funded rehabilitation programmes (Multilateral Group, 2003).
Reliance on local NGOs and CBOs to reach grass root communities and vulnerable groups has facilitated a degree of social mobilisation and community participation, but when CBOs are male and elite-dominated only incidental benefits flow to women. Even for projects with a gender perspective in the project design, evaluations report that the perspective changes during implementation for lack of understanding gender issues.
17 Approximate figures provided by the FAO-ECO.
18 Despite an extensive search it was not possible to find an analysis of the gender impact of the project. There are no sex disaggregated project indicators and the database maintained by the project office also has no sex disaggregated data.