Improving Livelihoods and Standing Together: Changing Communities in Sri Lanka

© IOM 2015

By Marina Gandhi and Emily Wiseman

In Mallikaithivu village in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, local women are finding their voice and improving their livelihoods through support meetings and trainings.

The women in this community have faced many challenges, after years of conflict. They include low income, the squandering of their income on alcohol by men in the village, and in some cases, domestic violence.

On top of these challenges is the daily struggle women in the village face to ensure that there is enough food on the table for their entire family.

When IOM began its intervention under the ongoing Australian Community and Rehabilitation programme, most women initially did not participate in any meetings or discussions. Consumed by the many difficulties they faced managing their day-to-day lives, they did not have time to worry about community meetings.

Through IOM’s intervention, a new building where the community can engage in cane-based production was constructed. The community already had the knowledge and skills of how to create cane-based products and by-products such as basket-weaving, but IOM was able to further develop their skills by organizing trainings on how to diversify their products and market them.

As a result of IOM’s intervention and the hard work of these women, the women started to think of how they could improve their livelihood and become more independent.

Now, they do not miss any meetings and discussions which take place in the village. They have started to speak up and address their priorities and needs. Some of them have even become members of their village’s Women Rural Development Society, which is now effectively functioning and involved in decision making for the village.

In the last group discussion, the women decided to form a group among themselves and will have monthly discussions on how they are progressing. They will also work to support each other, raise issues, advocate together and find solutions to their problems.

They also decided to sell their products in the local market to ensure they can feed their families and little by little save money.

Showing their strength and determination to tackle community issues, the women are planning soon to address the negative impacts of alcohol consumption on the family.

There are many challenges for each and every one of these women and the initiatives they launch, but together there is no limit on what they can achieve. They have shown that together they will improve their lives and empower themselves and their community.