Breadwinners: Sri Lanka's war widows constantly search for a sustainable source of livelihood
Sri Lanka’s total population 20.27 million consists of 53% women (2/3 of total population) according to the latest census. More and more women are becoming breadwinners all over South Asia. Women are forced to bear multiple burdens due to poverty, conflict and displacement and climate change.
There are more than 40,000 widows including 26,340 in Jaffna District according to Centre for Women and Development. And, there are 89,000 widows in north and east of Sri Lanka according to the Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Affairs. The latest Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) 2009/2010, which was conducted by the Department of Census and Statistics, and the estimates reveal that, out of five million households in Sri Lanka, 1.1 million (23%) households are headed by women. And, most of the women heading households are in 40-59 age group, while 50% of them are widows, and 4.5% are reported as never married. The high percentage of widows can be attributed to the prolonged war in Sri Lanka. Recently published research study book “Invisible Forgotten Sufferers: The Plight of Widows Around the World” reveals that, there are an estimated 245 million widows worldwide, and 115 million widows live in poverty and social stigmatization. These women are in constant search for a sustainable source of livelihood.
Women, whose husbands have been killed in the war gathered to share their grievances at “Strengthen Women Headed Households, and their Right to Life” symposium held in Trincomalee District, which was organised by National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO). Some of these women have also lost their fathers and brothers due to war, and have been pushed to bear the family burden from their childhood. And, some of their husbands and sons have either been killed in war or have been disappeared over the past years or in detention.