Looking towards a better future
Ganeshamoorthy Ushanandini is busy at her sewing machine. She is adding the final touches to a girl’s school uniform.
Recently returned to her own land after ten years of displacement, the 42-year old mother of two is trying to eke out a living in difficult circumstances. “I have been a widow since 2001. My daughters were very small then. Being a widow is hard enough, but being one in these circumstances is even worse,” says Ushanandini sadly.
When the government recently released land that was in the previous High Security Zones, Ushanandini and other families returned to their homes in Sampoor, happy to be on their own property at last. “I had to protect my daughters, so we fled in 2006 and we had to move many times,” she explains. “Back then we had a nice house, poultry and coconut trees. But we came back to just a bare land.”
The resettlement of these families is largely supported by the Peacebuilding Fund, through which temporary shelters and sanitation facilities are provided. With a funding base of $1.47 million, the project is providing assistance to facilitate the safe and immediate resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons to lands released by the government. The PBF is also supporting additional peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts of the current government, which was elected to office in January 2015.
Under the PBF project, Ushanandini received a temporary shelter through UNHCR and latrine and pipeline connection through UNICEF. “We were able to move in before the rainy season started,” she says. “Yes, I had a house before on this land. It is not the same, but once again I have a house.”
Her daughters who did their best to continue their studies even while displaced, are today doing well. The oldest is a student at the Jaffna University, while the other is studying commerce in Trincomalee. Both are away from home, but Ushanandini is not worried. “We survived everything that happened to us, so they are strong. They are educated and I am sure they will get good jobs. I just want my girls to have a better life than they did all these years.”
In the meantime, earning an adequate income to finance her daughters’ studies and her own expenses is a struggle. She depends on her sewing, for which the machine was provided by the International Organization for Migration. “Sewing is what fed us all this time. I take a few orders,” she explains. She also owns a small paddy land which she hopes to cultivate and in a few months, she hopes to grow potatoes in her garden.
Ushanandini and the other families are now waiting to commence building their permanent homes which will be funded by the government and other development partners.
“I am grateful to the UN for the home I have now,” she says, smiling. “For the last ten years, we have not slept on solid ground. Finally, we can.”