Monday, May 03, 2010

Sri Lanka: Nearly 50,000 widows in the east

By P Sivaramakrishnan - The Government of Sri Lanka says that around 50,000 widows are living in the eastern province alone.

Deputy Minister for Women and Child welfare MLAM Hizbullah told the BBC Tamil Service that nearly forty percent of those were widowed as a result of the decades-long war between the government forces and the LTTE.

Many of these widows are less than 40 years of age according to the statistical survey done by the government says the minister.

"This is a matter of great concern" says Minister Hizbullah, who was the women's affairs minister in the provincial government until recently.

The government of Sri Lanka has claimed that the eastern province was liberated from the clutches of the now militarily defeated LTTE by mid 2007 during the first phase of the final war against the Tamil Tigers.

Lack of funds

War widows in thousands are also living in other parts of Sri Lanka as well, according to the deputy minister of women and child welfare.

An expert group from India recently visited the eastern province to understand the issues faced by the war widows and apprised them of the efforts taken in India regarding similar issues.

India has assured to immediately help 1000 war widows at the first instance offering them training in possible self employment schemes, according to the minister.

The government of Sri Lanka would also be interacting and seeking help from other countries and Non Governmental Organisations in this regard to take forward the rehabilitation and welfare of the war widows says Minister Hizbullah.

"Lack of funds from the central government" to the eastern provincial council government was an impediment in taking forward the welfare and rehabilitation schemes of these widows in the past, he said.

The efforts taken by the government now, is only a small beginning in rehabilitating the war widows and many things need to be done on a fast pace to ensure a decent livelihood for these destitutes opines the junior minister in charge of such activities.

"Rehabilitating the war widows financially and socially will be a mammoth task for the government," agrees Minister Hizbullah.

The government of Sri Lanka has not planned any special recruitment drive or educational plans for these war widows at present.

However “efforts on war footing will be taken to rehabilitate the war widows” says the deputy minister for women and child welfare of Sri Lanka MLAM Hizbullah.

© BBC Sinhala

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