Like most places that have experienced conflict throughout the world, women were deeply affected by Sri Lanka’s 26-year conflict. For most women who lived in the Indian Ocean island’s conflict zones, displacement, destruction, violence, harassment and loss were part of their everyday life. The conflict ended in 2009, leaving many women traumatized and in need of psychosocial care, without belongings or livelihoods, and after the loss of their spouses, as heads of households. Several USAID initiatives continue to support these women by integrating them into society and bringing normalcy back into their lives.
One such initiative is USAID’s BIZ+ program which helps to increase and enhance equitable economic growth in the former northern and eastern conflict zones. BIZ+ is partnering with small and medium-sized local businesses to create 5,000 new livelihoods and increase household incomes. The program primarily targets women; including war widows, disabled women and female-headed households.
Thaminy Vedaasingham* is one of the program’s beneficiaries. She is 25 years old and lives in one of the worst conflict-affected northern districts of Sri Lanka. Having lost a limb during the conflict, Thaminy faced many hardships. This is when Thaminy heard about the vocational training and production center in her district that provides livelihood assistance to war widows, women abandoned or women separated from their spouses or families. USAID is supporting the center to expand production and marketing of rice flour and spices and provide vulnerable women like Thaminy with new skills and sustainable livelihoods.
“The profit of the business belongs to the vulnerable women who work so diligently in the center. USAID’s assistance and support – in the way of building new hostel and storage facilities, and providing new equipment and transportation – have helped us to overcome any challenges and be successful businesswomen.” says Thaminy.
Thaminy is now economically independent and has the confidence to socialize with others. “Thaminy is now enjoying life without worrying about the leg she lost. She is happy to work and earn for her family and for herself. As a mother, I am very proud of it”, quips Thaminy’s mother.
The Managing Director of the Vocational Training and Production Centre is happy to see the socio-economic business enterprise model with a vision of improving livelihood of vulnerable women come this far. But above all, he is happy to see how the project has increased hope in the minds of women who seek empowerment through employment opportunities.
* Name has been changed to protect identity