By Chandani Jayatilleke
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Sri Lankan women who were Tamil combatants a year ago are leaving rehabilitation camps and moving into the work force. Four hundred just arrived at a hostel for workers in a factory that ships clothes to Target and Wal-Mart.
She once tried to escape the Tamil rebels but was caught and punished. "They got me to cut wood to build bunkers. We had to work really hard."
She said the rebels promised to pay her $91 a month. "But we were paid a little money once in three months only. Recently we came to know how lavishly the leaders lived. They cheated poor women like us."
She says she's not scared of saying the truth. "I have already forgotten the dark side of my life. Now I want to move on and let my children live in a peaceful environment," she said. Her mother is caring for her children--two daughters, 14 and 12, and a 10-year-old son--in their village.
Many of the women have limited education, but Niranjala, 20, was five months away from her university entrance examination when she was conscripted in April 2009.
She had been attending the government school in Kilinochchi. After one week of intensive military training she was sent to the Tamil forces' military front. She only had to fight for a few weeks because the battle was nearing the end at that point.
Along with many of the other women here, she crossed the lagoon. She worried about what had happened to her siblings and parents. Miraculously they all found each other among the thousands of people in the same rehabilitation camp.
In the rehabilitation camp Niranjala attended classes and continued her studies. "Now I want to learn sewing skills. And when I am fully released, I will sit for the university entrance examination next year," she said.
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Chandani Jayatilleke is a freelance writer in Colombo, Sri Lanka, who contributes to several international publications.
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