Sri Lanka: Women look to the future with optimism

Jecindan Dharsha, Sri Lanka
Jecindan Dharsha is training community-based organizations in her village in northern Sri Lanka. Photo: UNDP in Sri Lanka

Like many others in her village in northern Sri Lanka, Jecindan Dharsha was displaced several times during nearly three decades of conflict in the country and faced severe hardships. When she came back to her village she didn’t have a penny to her name.

“I had to start my life all over again,” Dharsha said.


  • Over 1 million people in Sri Lanka have been uprooted as a consequence of the conflict over the past three decades.
  • More than 16,000 people received direct livelihood-related assistance; 39 percent of beneficiaries are women.
  • In the Northern Province over 81 percent of those who received assistance initiated livelihood activities within 6 months.

Five years later, she has become a respected and trusted community leader – and it all began with a sewing machine, which she received in 2010 through UNDP’s Transition Recovery Programme.

The multi-donor, multi-project programme was initiated in 2008 to support economic and social recovery for conflict-affected populations in the north and east of Sri Lanka. Its projects address community and area-based development, provision of housing, infrastructure and social cohesion.

“I had already learnt to sew from my mother, so the sewing machine was very helpful.... I was able to make more saree jackets, sell them and earn an income”.

Later that year, Dharsha was identified as a social mobilizer under the same programme and worked for one year with Community Based Organizations (CBOs) in her village, liaising with government authorities and the community as a whole to bring about participatory development activities, such as training on farming practices, leadership, bookkeeping, financial management and proposal writing.  

Through the Transition Recovery Programme, UNDP provided direct livelihood-related assistance to 16,684 persons (of whom 39% were women). Additionally, 26 farmer organizations, 73 women’s organizations, and 92 other community-based organizations were trained in administrative and adaptability practices.

With funding support from the Government of Norway, Dharsha was selected to also participate in a three-month Community Catalyst Course at the University of Jaffna, and has been working since as a trainer of CBO trainers.

Today, Dharsha trains about 50 CBOs on topics ranging from leadership to documentation, financial management and conflict mitigation. She has also been contracted through the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to conduct similar training sessions for women in the area.

In the Northern Province, out of 5,088 people who received livelihood assistance, 81 percent initiated livelihood activities within 6 months of receiving assistance, like Dharsha.

Finding strength from what she has gained and learned so far, Dharsha says she is now confident of a better tomorrow, as she looks to the future with new hope and optimism.

“At the moment, I am training organizations on a small scale. In the future, I plan to learn more and hope to conduct training on a larger scale, targeting more people at higher levels,” she says.

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