SRI LANKA: To Give War Widows Construction Skills

Saturday, October 23, 2010
Lanka Business Online
Southern Asia
Sri Lanka
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Human Rights
Reconstruction and Peacebuilding

Sri Lanka's construction industry has launched a project to provide construction skills to people, especially war widows and youth, in the east which is recovering from the effects of conflict, officials said.

The project aims to train 5,000 craftsmen in four core crafts - masonry, carpentry, plumbing and electrical work - and help them find work as the region rebuilds after the end of the island's 30-year ethnic war in May 2009.
It is funded by the German government and implemented by Sri Lanka's Chamber of Construction Industry in collaboration with the German Development Cooperation, GTZ, office in Colombo.

"There are 45,000 war widows in (the eastern district of) Batticaloa itself," Dakshitha Thalgodapitiya, chief executive of the Chamber of Construction Industry (CCI), told a news conference.

"We will not only pay the trainees a daily stipend to attend classes but also give tool kits and uniforms. We're dealing with the poorest of the poor who have suffered for 30 years."

Priority will be given to enrolling war widows and young females and training them to work in the construction industry.

"Training in construction crafts provides gainful employment opportunities to young persons with the least educational qualifications from the most vulnerable sector of our society in the shortest period of time," Thalgodapitiya said in a statement.

"This will address not only the issue of capacity building of the eastern contractors but also multiple issues confronted by a society that had suffered as a result of conflict."

Training in construction skills is needed given the huge infrastructure development anticipated with the end of the war and the country aiming for 8.5 percent economic growth, he said.

The project will start with the setting up four training centres in areas with a large number of ex-combatants and war-affected people which will be increased to seven centres in the next three years.

The first centre will be set up in November in Valachchenai in Batticaloa close to the Passekudah tourist resort where many resorts are coming up.

Sri Lanka's economic growth has begun to accelerate with the end of the war amid a boom in tourist arrivals.

Training will be done under the curricula developed by the tertiary and vocational education commission to enable trainees to get level 3 accreditation of the national vocational qualification system.

The NVQ is a recognised, unified qualification for the entire technical and vocational system.

CCI members and contractors in the east will provide on-the-job training and employment opportunities, Thalgodapitiya said.

It will meet about 20 percent of the requirements of a planned manpower reserve of 25,000 in the construction sector the government has said it aims to create.

German Ambassador Jens Ploetner told the news conference the projects aims to meet the immediate requirements of a society recovering from conflict.

"We're giving back hope to young men and women that they can cope with tomorrow and lead a better life. We're giving them the tools to cope with life and hope of a better future.

"If at the end of the project we can say 2,000 people have a better future then I think we've built a small piece of peace in Sri Lanka."

He said there was "still lots of misery" in the east "with a lot of one-parent households", headed mainly by women.