‘Out of the shadows’: war-affected women with disabilities in Sri Lanka - final report

Disability discrimination Civil rights People with disability Disability War Sri Lanka

Over recent years disability has become a core concern of global, national and local development initiatives. Global development donors are increasingly targeting this area for investment as it is now well recognised that disability inclusion is integral to securing processes of community peace-building for long-term sustainable social cohesion. A growing body of scholarly research and development practice initiatives have emerged in the area in response to this new agenda. Despite these efforts, women with disabilities remain the most marginalised from both the nascent scholarly research and the social policy and practice of disability inclusion.

Women with disabilities are also the most vulnerable group in post-war and post-conflict situations, experiencing the highest levels of gender-related violence, abject poverty, stigmatisation and exclusion. There is an urgent need to understand the impact of long-term war and conflict on women with disabilities, and particularly under transitional arrangements with the end of armed conflict. There is almost no research that examines the day to day lives of women with disabilities within post-war or post-conflict contexts. Nor is there any substantive research that documents their subjective experiences of transitional governance, policy and programming, and how they are included and/or excluded from a society emerging from protracted armed conflict.

This report, drawing upon disability-inclusive methodologies of co-creation, development and engagement, maps the lived experiences of women with disabilities living within the war-affected areas of Sri Lanka. ‘War affected’ is defined in this work to include women from areas where sustained hostilities took place, that is the Northern and Eastern provinces; women from the ‘border-villages’ of the primary areas where hostilities took place; women from a community expelled from the Northern and Eastern provinces and living in Puttalam, as long-term internally displaced persons; women from the Southern Province; and women from the Malayaha community.

The research entailed a six-stage process that significantly focused on building the research capacity of women with disabilities and their advocates, enabling their participation in the project as expert knowers of the interstice of gender and disability under transitional arrangements. Spanning a period of more than 12 months of fieldwork, the outcome of the research is a clear set of recommendations to advance the rights of women with disabilities in law, policy and institutional practice.

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