Improving women’s access to livelihood opportunities and local services in the Post-Conflict Context of Sri Lanka The World Bank has awarded a consultancy to Viluthu in order to improve women’s access to livelihood opportunities and local services in the North and East. This project commenced in November 2010 and is due to be completed in May 2011.
Background to the Consultancy
Decades of conflict have imposed a heavy economic cost in the Northern and Eastern provinces and the poverty situation there is more serious than in other parts of the country. Fighting in the East during 2006-7 resulted in the displacement of about 150,000 people before the Government regained control over the Eastern Province in July 2007. Since then, the situation in the East has gradually stabilized. Almost all IDPs have returned to their homes of origin, and the local economy has been boosted by a sharp increase in paddy production following reclamation of previously un-cultivated paddy fields, and by an easing of security-related fishing restrictions. Elections for the Eastern Provincial Council, which had not taken place previously due to the conflict, were held in May 2008.
The conflict in the Northern Province was more pronounced and intense than that in the Eastern Province. It has severely damaged economic assets and disrupted the livelihood of almost the entire population of the Northern Province. Consequently, the displacement of people and the damage to infrastructure in the districts of Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi towards the end of the conflict was almost total. At the end of the conflict in May 2009, an estimated 290,000 newly displaced people were housed in temporary and closed camps managed by the Government. As of January 07, 2010, the Government had released an estimated total of approximately 186,000 people from the camps (UNHCR Reports).
In the Government of Sri Lanka’s (GOSL) 10-year Development Framework, Mahinda Chintana (MC), the interventions in the North and East are based on three key pillars: (i) integrating those displaced or affected by the conflict; (ii) resuming service delivery, including through investments in physical infrastructure; and (iii) strengthening the role of local governments. GOSL and the Eastern Province have already embarked on the preparation of a long term strategy and development plan with assistance from UNDP and the Bank. But given its current fiscal challenges the Government will find it difficult to fully finance the restitution of the livelihoods of the returning internally displaced people (IDPs) – largely ethnic minorities – to their place of origin and restore their social and economic life.
The protracted conflict has had a significant impact on gender relations, resulting in a more violent society (with detrimental impact on women) and significant increase in female headed households, which tend to be among the poorest. At national level, 80% of participants in State Poverty Alleviation Programme are women and approximately 21% of households are female headed (excludes north and, east data where the impact of conflict is likely to result in considerable higher figures). Sri Lanka’s North and East have seen gender-related conflict impacts on the social and economic landscape. Gender ramifications of demographic changes include increased female-male ratios, female-headed households, and young women alone in urban areas. Women’s representation in elected bodies in Sri Lanka is dismal and there has been no substantial change in the number of women representatives since independence in 1948.
Following the Parliament election in 2004, only 4.8% of MPs are women, with less representation at Provincial Councils- and even less at Local government. The change in Sri Lanka’s electoral system from a simple majority system of elections to a system based on proportional representation in 1989 also failed to have a positive impact on women’s representation unlike the experience of other countries. The prevalent level of violence in Sri Lankan electoral politics is also extremely high and tends to marginalize women from politics.
The Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) for 2009 – 2012 for Sri Lanka has three strategic objectives to (i) expand economic opportunities in the lagging regions for inclusive and equitable economic development; (ii) improve the investment climate and competitiveness for accelerated economic growth; and (iii) strengthen the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery. The three elements need to be considered when moving from conflict to peace are service delivery, livelihood and voice of citizens. The North East Local Services Improvement Project (NELSIP) which is scheduled to go to Board in April covers first and third elements while the on-going Community Livelihoods in Conflict Affected Areas Project (Reawakening Project – RaP) covers the second element. The Reawakening Project (RaP) adopts a Community Driven Development (CDD) approach, with communities assuming responsibility to plan, design and implement small-scale infrastructure and livelihood activities.
The project has come to be identified as one of the best instruments for channeling funds and technical support quickly and efficiently for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of productive and basic infrastructure and the restoration of livelihoods, even under extreme security conditions. With the Additional Financing in December 2009, a critical component was included, aiming at asset and livelihoods restoration of the IDPs resettled under the Emergency Northern Recovery Project by extending original project activities into about 135 additional resettlement villages. Livelihood activities account for 50% of the project costs. The North East Local Services Improvement Project (NELSIP) will support local government authorities (Pradeshiya Sabhas) in the North and East Provinces of Sri Lanka to deliver services and local infrastructure to the citizens in a responsive and accountable manner through participatory planning, and implementation of various mechanisms of social accountability.
Further the project will also aim to strengthen the capacity of relevant provincial and central institutions such as the Finance Commission, the Ministry of Provincial Councils and Local Governments and the Sri Lanka Institute of Local Governments at the central level, and the Offices of the Provincial Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner for Local Government at the provincial level to monitor and support Pradeshiya Sabhas, and to manage an effective intergovernmental system across the country. With the end to the armed conflict, thousands are returning to heavily destroyed areas, and the urgency of providing livelihood assistance and restoring essential infrastructure for public services limited the gender analysis that could be done during project preparation.
The current situation has also increased the need for livelihood assistance and support structures to an extent not foreseen in the original design of the RaP, and in ways which will challenge the capacity of traditional CBOs. Women, and in particular widows and Female-Headed Households may become vulnerable to indifferent treatments and their voices may not be heard. On this background, dedicated action has to be taken to develop an action plan/approach for strengthening women’s role in the livelihood activities (under RaP) and to ensure that their voices are heard and interests are protected in the participatory planning for Pradeshiya Sabhas’ delivery of services and local infrastructure (under NELSIP). The transition out of war thus offers opportunities to build on women’s war-time economic experiences and avoid a consolidation of or reversion to old inequalities.
The key objectives of the consultancy
• to empower women towards greater participation and voice vis-à-vis Local government and accountability, and to ensure women’s access services in an equitable manner
• to mobilize women and in particular female heads of households to access benefit in equitable manner from the livelihood activities organized under RaP;,
• to mainstream gender perspectives in RaP and NELSIP, and to promote greater responsiveness of CBOs and Local government to the needs of women The following activities will be implemented through NGOs and local researchers working in the project areas, preferably with previous experience from working on issues of women’s empowerment and/or social mobilization of women.
1. Secondary data review:
Relevant data from the eastern districts exists in the MIS of the RaP. In the Northern districts relevant data will be extracted from a comprehensive baseline survey designed for the Emergency Northern Rehabilitation Project, which will data on a broad range of issues (on nutrition, health, livelihoods, assets, savings, etc.), and will provide an understanding of the social and economic situation of returnees. The secondary data review will contribute to structuring the collection of qualitative information through stakeholder analysis and Focus Group Discussions.
2. Stakeholder analysis, interviews and Focus Group Discussions (FGD): The stakeholder analysis will be conducted through a series of interviews of key informants from local NGOs, women’s social networks, research institutes and Local government. These will be used to identify the main needs and constraints experienced by women in the resettled areas with regards to their livelihood, access to services and ability to control their own lives and get their voices heard in community and local affairs.
3. Local workshops and training: Workshops facilitated by local NGOs and researchers will be conducted to provide concrete inputs to the projects’ design. Projects’ staff will participate to sensitize them and increase their awareness of key issues in relation to enhancing RaP’s and NELSIP’s outreach to and involvement of the poorest women.
4. Review of RaP and NELSIP Operational Manuals and MIS: The Operational Manuals and MIS of both RaP and NELSIP will be revisited and adjusted according to the findings of (1) and (2) in order to strengthens both projects’ ability to target and access in particular the most vulnerable women in the communities, to facilitate their economic empowerment (RaP) and their ability to access services and organize to get their voice heard by local Government.
5. Participatory project design of pilots: Design and implementation plan for pilots for income generation for newly resettled poor/vulnerable women in the five Northern districts (RaP); design and plan for organizing women’s groups for increasing voice in local planning and improved access to services in the same five pilot areas (NELSIP).
6. Final report on the participatory project design process: The partner NGOs and researchers will document and disseminate the lessons learned and present a draft report for discussion in a workshop with participants and stakeholders from the participatory project design process. A final report will be issued for wide dissemination.