Doing This and That – Self-employment and Economic Survival of Women Heads of Households in Mullaitivu
In post-war Sri Lanka, small, medium and micro (SME) enterprise development is the dominant approach to livelihood development for war-affected women, and particularly for women heads of households (WHH). Yet not every woman who is a recipient of SME support becomes an entrepreneur running an enterprise or even a micro enterprise. Rather, they assist women to commence and engage in a diverse repertoire of extremely precarious self-employment activities, in which their own labour is the most important ingredient. However, womens own productive labour was materially, temporally, spatially and affectively entangled with and circumscribed by the extraordinary labour of remaking their lives after war. Although many of the women continued to receive or were eligible for state social welfare payments such as Samurdhi and the Public Assistance Monthly Allowance (PAMA), these were woefully inadequate. Women coped and survived in spite of the failure of these self-employment ventures due to handouts from charitable institutions and family, even though these were ad hoc, episodic and unreliable. Based on these findings, livelihoods in post-war Sri Lanka have to be located, analysed and addressed within the broader politics of post-war development and reconstruction, and as a question of economic justice beyond a market-based approach to economic empowerment.