With reconciliation being high on its agenda, the Sri Lankan government has decided to launch an empowerment scheme for widows in the country and extend the implementation of a self-employment programme to former members of militant groups.
Of about 6.95 lakh widows in Sri Lanka, approximately 6.67 lakh belong to the age group of 40 years and above. Even though exact details are not immediately available with regard to those who became widows in the wake of the 26-year-long armed conflict (1983-2009), a considerable number of the widows is said to be belonging to this category.
The scheme will cover the widows in the districts of Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mannar, Vavuniya and Mullativu (Northern Province) and Ampara, Trincomalee and Batticaloa (Eastern Province) besides Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa (North Central Province).
According to the 2012 Census, women are heading 23 per cent of 5.2 million households in the country. Their share in the overall population of about 20 million is around 51 per cent.
A senior official in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs says that field officials of her department have identified the beneficiaries including those who are heading households. The scheme will soon be inaugurated simultaneously in all the districts. Economically weaker sections will be targetted under the scheme. The focus will be more on awareness generation, improvement of skills and provision of technical assistance, the official points out, adding that initially, Rs. 5 crore has been sought from the Cabinet.
Scheme extended to former militants
Another decision taken by the government is to extend the self-employment programme, which has been in vogue since 2012.
The programme covers those who were once involved in terrorist activities and who subsequently underwent rehabilitation. Soft loans are being provided to beneficiaries so that they can lead their lives in a dignified manner. Approximately, 2,500 persons have benefitted. The number of applications received is around 7,000 says an official source.
As on December last year, over Rs. 30 crore had been provided. The Cabinet’s approval was sought in view of the increase in the number of applications. Originally, the programme was implemented through the Bank of Ceylon. Now, the government has decided to rope in other banks such as People’s Bank, Lankaputra Bank and the Savings Bank of Sri Lanka. (The Hindu)