ISLAMABAD: As Sri Lanka comes to grips at the end of 26-years-long war between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), the nation now focuses on the status of women and their future rehabilitation, it is also a reminder for Pakistani women displaced because of militancy, ethnic strife and military operations.
Shyamala Gomez, Country Director for an NGO Fokus, recently made available to The News several studies pertaining to women and their status as Female Heads of Households( FHHs) and their Access to Economic, Social and Cultural Rights(AESCR) in the aftermath of civil war.
These studies were carried out in the in Anuradhapura District, Ampara District and the third, a Survey on the Status of Muslim Female Heads of Households and their access to Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Puttalam District of Sri Lanka.
Fokus a forum for Women and Development – is a knowledge and resource center for international women’s issues with an emphasis on the spreading of information and women-centered development cooperation.
According to the above studies women in Sri Lanka and their social status reveals that they enjoy a more favorable social position than their sisters in other South Asian nations.
As women specially in Khyber Paktoonkhwa have also experienced,“Peace is perhaps the single most ingredient or constituent element that transcends the personal and reaches out to humanity as a whole and investment in it is the most lucrative in materialist as well as non materialist ways.”
The studies reveal that violence against women, disrespect particularly towards right to own property by women as well as early marriage and disrupted education and all collective negative impacts and outcomes of the civil ethnic war.
“The fear psychosis and the emotional trauma experienced facing constant attacks on the physical and mental aspects have caused women, children and adult men much difficulty performing their duties and responsibilities of everyday life successfully and meaningfully”, the studies reveal.
Interesting are the findings of research which reveals facts about the Muslim (FHHs) in the district of Puttalam and their access to (ESCR).
Many of the recommendations of these studies give an ample opportunity for us in Pakistan to ponder over. Here too, there are hundreds of war widows in the aftermath of military operations in the Northern areas.
The report pointing to women who have taken the responsibilities of their families, says that the government and other responsible parties should help them to enhance their access to ESCR in effective ways in order to increase their rights towards these resources as this could lead to women’s empowerment.
The studies reveal that one of the severe impacts of war in Sri Lanka is the displacement of people. The war displaced thousands of people internally regardless of their ethnicities, as has been seen in Pakistan.
As is being seen in the case of displaced women and children Fokus findings also note the fact that access to service is limited by language barriers and discriminatory behaviors of some government officers seriously impact FHHs compared to other women. To rectify these issues, a mechanism to report problems in their mother tongue should be put in to practice in the government offices considering the language/ethnic composition of the villages.
Awareness programs related to domestic violence and physical harassments are important in the villages. A confidential place to report such incidents should be created in the villages, which should include FHHs.
There is need to decentralize the existing reporting mechanisms regarding the matters pertaining to domestic violence and physical harassments. Accessing special units in police for reporting such incidents is always a problem for women and especially to FHHs included in this study.
The studies point to the role played by mosques in the villages to improve the status of FHHs and the challenges they face in accessing ESCR.
These women may be displaced due to civil strife but these are equal citizens. The studies point to the right to an adequate standard of living, including the rights to food and to be free from hunger, to adequate housing, to water and to clothing.
The right to health, including the right to access to health facilities, goods and services, to healthy occupational and environmental conditions, and protection against epidemic diseases, and rights relevant to sexual and reproductive health; The right to education, including the right to free and compulsory primary education and to available and accessible secondary and higher education progressively made free of charge; and the liberty of parents to choose schools for their children.