05/29/2014, 00.00
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Abandoned widows in Sri Lanka get back on their feet through solidarity

by Melani Manel Perera
Thanks to an initiative by the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO) in Negombo (Western Province), a group of women were given tools to earn a living: fishing rods, sewing and baking machines, and more. All were internal displaced, widowed by war or the tsunami or abandoned by their husbands.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Some 493 women living in the north and east of Sri Lanka have been able to send their children to school and earn a living for their family for the past year thanks to the action of the women's section of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO) in Negombo (Western Province).

The support programme began in January 2013, and its results were celebrated on Tuesday in Trincomalee when the last aid was handed out.

The women involved in the initiative lost their husbands in the civil war or in the 2004 tsunami, or were abandoned by their husbands.

They are all internally displaced, moved out of their homes by the government but never properly resettled.

They come from 23 villages in three districts (Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Mannar) in the eastern and northern provinces. Another 28 women will soon receive aid in Mannar.

"These women face enormous problems day after day. They have been left to fend for themselves, ignored by every government aid programme," said Lavina Hasanthi, head of the women's section NAFSO, who spoke to AsiaNews.

In order to help them, "we followed two directions: with economic aid, because they need to survive, and by making them realise that, although they are refugees, they deserve human dignity and must fight for their rights," she said.

"This initiative is a big help for us," said Siththi Umma, a 42-year-old Muslim widow. "We might have been neglected by the majority of society, but now we can earn some money for ourselves without being a burden on others, and we can send our children to school."

"Now we can face any challenge," said Sorja Devi, a 55-year-old Tamil widow. "We know we can talk to any official and assert our needs and rights," she told AsiaNews, "and we have NAFSO to thank."

The programme included the distribution of farming tools, sewing machines, bicycles, boxes for selling fish, fishing nets, canoes, cages for chickens and hens, goats, wood shelves for small shops, hoppers, baking machines and seeds.

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See also
Small-scale fishermen call on government to stop trampling their rights and the environment
Urgent need to create safer working conditions for fishermen
Ill-advised policies harming people in Trincomalee
New homes in Galle for tsunami victims
Sri Lankan fishermen to work together to overcome economic crisis


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