The National Peace Council (NPC) presented the findings of its project, Post Conflict Healing: A Women’s Manifesto, at a national level meeting at SLIDA on December 15. The findings included policy briefing papers, a Women’s Manifesto and a video.
The meeting was attended by Minister of National Co-existence Dialogue and Official Languages Mr. Mano Ganesan, Secretary-General of the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms Mr. Mano Tittawella, Chairperson of the Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms Ms. Manouri Muttetuewgama, NPC Board Member and Founder and Chair of the Association of War Affected Women Ms. Visaka Dharmadasa, and Country Director (Sri Lanka) FOKUS Dr. Shyamala Gomez.
Minister Ganesan stressed the importance of getting involved in the peace building and reconciliation process, pointing out that neither women in the north nor the south had seen justice served or received compensation for trauma they had suffered during the war.
He urged them not to wait for the government to take action but to take their futures into their own hands and start making their own decisions.
“We need to build hearts and minds of people to develop the country. We cannot do it without women. Women must take on the leadership,” he said.
NPC’s project was implemented with the support of FOKUS from April 2014 in nine districts across the country that were both directly and indirectly affected: Vavuniya, Mannar, Trincomalee, Ampara, Galle, Hambantota, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, and Puttalam. The policy briefing papers and manifesto are outcomes of the objective to bring women’s voices at the grass roots to the forefront of the reconciliation process.
The project mobilised women to take an active part in community healing, to establish lasting peace and to increase the participation of women in the process of post conflict transition.
It also trained participants on Transitional Justice (TJ), women’s rights, role of women in post conflict society, reconciliation, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and its recommendations and UN Security Council Resolution 1325 that deals with women and security.
The briefing papers, which covered the topics of restitution of land and property and economic reintegration, physical security, psychological recovery, democratisation and governance and justice, will be presented to decision makers with the aim that the affected women’s concerns and recommendations will be considered in the future reconciliation process to ensure it is more gender sensitive.
NPC’s Executive Director Dr. Jehan Perera said women were being excluded from decision making. Through the project, NPC had been able to reveal what women thought, their hopes and aspirations. “Women have different priorities than men and we have been able to bring those priorities to the fore,” he said.
Three women from Puttalam, Mannar and Hambantota told the meeting about the trauma they had undergone during the war and the difficulties they were now facing as widows bringing up families and encountering discrimination in many forms. By participating in the project, they had come to realise that all communities suffered during the war, not just their own, and were able to understand and sympathise with the others.
Given the opportunity to ask questions from Minister Ganesan, the women cited the non- implementation of the language policy as a major drawback to reconciliation. Tamil speaking government officials, doctors and lawyers were not available in the north and east, causing many problems in the daily lives of the people.
Another woman asked why the Office of Missing Persons had not been established despite the passing of legislation while others said they were still looking for missing relatives without any success and one asked why political prisoners were not being released.