Three years since the end of the war, these women are homeless, jobless or without any kind of assistance. Many have lost children, killed by Tamil rebels. Some complain that they are discriminated based on their religion.
“We live miserable lives, without a home, work or someone to take care of us. We have been abandoned,” some war widows say. They are originally from the Eastern Province, the part of the country most affected by the war. They are all Muslim, from the villages of Kottukkal, Hijra Nagar, Kalapukattu and Sengamam. They fled their homes in 1990 and have not been able to go back. “We need a place to stay, even if it is not where we came from,” they say. “We cannot continue to burden our children. We have had enough.”
“Sinhalese and Tamil widows don’t have these problems. As Muslims, we suffer and have nothing,” one woman from Kottukkal said.
Many of these women have lost children, killed during the decades-long civil war by ethnic Tamil rebels from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The “luckier” ones only lost their homes and fields.
“The government and NGOs are promoting some housing projects but there is no room for us,” another woman, from Kalapukattu village, told AsiaNews. “Only 45 per cent of the widows got a new house. The other 55 is stuck in makeshift shelters or refugee camps.”
In addition to housing, money is another major problem. Some widows only get about 100 rupees a month (just over one US dollar) in government aid. Others can get up to 300 rupees (just over two US dollars) a day doing odd jobs.
Because of long-held traditions, widows are one of the most vulnerable groups in Sri Lankan society because they are seen as the embodiment of misfortune. This is even more so for Muslim widows who pay the price of prejudice against their religion