Recovery of Resettled Communities in Vasanthapuram
With the end of the war in May 2009, Jaffna District has progressively transformed, moving from stages of early recovery to mid-term recovery and development. The region is seeing movements of populations, who are returning after years of displacement, facing resettlement that is bringing with it its own rays of hope as well as having to deal with other complications.
Vasanthapuram, is situated in the Tellipalai Divisional Secretariat Division of Jaffna District, and was within the High Security Zone for many years. Despite resettlement, the process of commencing their lives proved challenging. Their lands were overgrown and destroyed, and they were faced with the lack of livelihood resources and support, livelihood infrastructure, common spaces to mobilize and come together to promote a sense of community. Destroyed by the war and released for resettlement in November 2010, this village has been a beneficiary of the Jaffna Rehabilitation Project II (JRP II) implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Transition Recovery Programme (TRP).
Funded by the Government of Norway, the project has supported the restoration of permanent housing, livelihoods, prioritized community infrastructure, and capacity development of Community Based Organisations (CBOs) since December 2010. UNDP’s JRP II Project is being implemented in selected villages in the 4 Divisional Secretariat Divisions of Tellipalai, Chavakachcheri, Karainagar and Vadamaradchi East to the value of US$850,000.
People in Vasanthapuram have access to basic infrastructure to enable access to socio economic services and facilities, particularly improved capacities of 140 beneficiaries to initiate livelihood activities, improved living environment for 50 households, and improved basic sanitation facilities for 50 households. Completed activities include:
• Tools and equipment provided for livelihood related activities to 110 households.
• 50 people received short-term employment as skilled labourers tied to housing projects.
• 50 permanent houses and 50 toilets constructed.
• 10 self help groups formed and 50 beneficiaries in target communities participated in construction work.
• A preschool with play garden, a multipurpose hall and a Multi Purpose Cooperative Societies (MPCS) outlet constructed.
• Beneficiaries, including youth trained on improved livelihood practices and technologies.
• Community Based Organisations (CBOs)/Women CBOs members trained on good governance practices, leadership, dispute resolution, and gender equity.
Results of the project:
The collective work and the community participation were expected to improve social cohesion with fewer conflicts between groups as needs were identified and processes were in place to start addressing them.
Traditional livelihoods such as agriculture, masonry, and carpentry have been restored with the provision of equipment, inputs and enterprise development training.
“We lost all our assets when we returned from the Wanni and I struggled to get a job after resettlement. I did wage labour and earned a little money. Now I have my own construction work in my area and earn more than Rs.20,000 monthly because of initial assistance from UNDP…” Says, Rasalingam Ramesh (34), recently married construction worker
The provision of housing and sanitation facilities has improved basic needs of people, improved shelter, access to toilets, and also supported the creation of a sense of inclusion for resettled families and normalcy to the lives of the younger generation.
“For the last 20 years we have been seen as ‘welfare centre people’. My children always asked when are we going back to our home. They don’t know this village as all my three children were born in the welfare centre. We came to our village in January 2010 and made a small temporary house by removing material from the transitional shelter used at the welfare centre. Fortunately UNDP supported us to build permanent houses and we are nearing the completion stage. My children are now safer and they have enough space for studies. This gives us confidence in life.” says, Jeganathan Thamayanthy, 43 years, mother of three.
Reconstruction of community infrastructure has facilitated improved service provision for state services and CBO functioning as it has created the space for these authorities to meet and commence activities. The infrastructure has helped provide space for Grama Niladari (GN), Rural Development Society (RDS), Women’s Rural Development Society (WRDS), and other Community Based Organization (CBO) to work in the village. The new preschool building will provide a safe and secure location for children to pursue their education and an improved environment for preschool children to engage in learning. An increased CBOs/Women CBOs mobilization and women’s representation can be expected, as a result of improved capacity and greater interactions between members.
“We have to strengthen the CBO structure to serve our people and for collective decision making by RDS, WRDS and the Community Centre, promoting trust building and transparency amongst committee members and the community. Increasing participation of women alongside men in common activities shows the level of social integration that has taken place. I don’t think it could have happened so quickly without UNDP’s intervention.” Tharmarasa Pratheepa, 28 years, WRDS Secretary
The Multi-purpose Corporative Society (MPCS) sales outlet will eventually enable easier access to dry rations on a regular basis at a designated place in the village. As the Society is open to farmers from the neighbouring village it will enhance interactions across villages.