12/02/2014 – Colombo, Sri Lanka: Waking up early everyday morning, preparing food and making sure her kids are ready to go to school is something she has been doing as long as she can remember. She has no microwaves, food processors or new gadgets to make sure she gets to do things in minimum time. She lives in a small hut; you cannot even call it a hut. It’s just several wooden planks being put in all sides and several roofing sheets just barely covering up the roof.
This is how Sellathurai Rajeswary a mother of 3 lives in former war torn Pandiaynkulam village in Mullativu. She works as a laborer doing odd jobs in order to make sure she gets money in order to give the very best she can offer to her children. The eldest daughter is 20 years old, now without a job staying at home, and the youngest is 14 years old. He still goes to school. Her husband is no longer with them, as he passed away 4 years ago due to a kidney ailment.
Life was never like this for the Rajeswary family. They were farmers and were living in Pandiyankulam for over 30 years. Pandiyankulama located within the Mullativu district was one of the strongholds of the rebel group the LTTE. During the time the area was under their control the Rajeswary family has been working in paddy field in the area and earning a small income. Children were going to a nearby school.
“We didn’t have much, but it was enough,” says Rajeswary. “Our lives were dependent on the income we got from working in the paddy fields.”
In 2009, when the final stage of the war between the Government Forces and the LTTE was being centered on Mullativu district, The Rajeswary family had to flee their home and had to take refuge in a nearby city called Kilinochchi.
“My husband and I took our children and came to the Ananda Kumaraswamy refugee camp in Kilinochchi. They accepted us there and gave us shelter”
In 2010, soon after the war ended everyone in the Rajeswary family came back to their home and found that the house they had before has been completely demolished. They couldn’t recognize the land that they came back, was the one they called home. As there was no other place to go, they built a small hut and began to live.
“After my husband died in 2010 my family has been in hunger at times, but help was very slow to come. Once we heard that the Red Cross was going to give houses in our area, and we were waiting for that to come”
Post Conflict Recovery Programme
The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), with funding from the Government of India has embarked on a project to support people returning to their lands in Northern Sri Lanka to rebuild their homes after decades of displacement.
The programme, which provides cash grants to beneficiaries, is implemented in partnership with the Government of Sri Lanka. Government representatives propose a list of people whose houses had been destroyed or damaged during the conflict.
Red Cross Project Officers then visit every single person on the list to verify eligibility of the proposed names for the assistance from the Red Cross.
Rajeswary waited, waited and waited, hoping she would be eligible to receive funding from the programme, and hence to start building a new life for her and for her children.
The initial list was published but alas, Rajeshwari couldn’t see her name in that list.
The Grievance Process
The Post Conflict Recovery Programme provides people like Rajeswary with an opportunity to voice their concerns and seek redress of their grievances.
Once the preliminary selection of families is done, the list is displayed in public areas and community members have 14 days in which to raise any concerns or grievances in relation to their own application or those of others through a grievance process.
On a Wednesday, a day whene the Red Cross was holding a grievance meeting, Rajeswary was at the location way early to inform her plight and to notify that her name was not but should be on the list. During the meeting she informs the Red Cross officials of the matter. This triggers an immediate response from Red Cross and Technical Officers were sent to her location to inspect the matter. The assessment, confirms that Rajeshwari is going through real hardships.
Her case was then discussed at the grievance meeting, which confirmed her eligibility for assistance under the project.
Currently Rajeswary is receiving the financial support in order to build her house. Since then she has currently finished building the walls to her new house.
“I am grateful to the Red Cross for making this miracle happen. If it weren’t for them, my children and I would have been in a dire condition. This is good for us”.