Building new lives after decades of conflict

After serving in conflict for 17 years, Sathyandan was sent for rehabilitation to help him integrate back into civilian society. Two years later, he is now the owner of ‘Kani Product’, a company that sells fruit flavoured drinks.

At the entrance of Sathyandan’s house hangs a painting that depicts diversity and harmony among different ethnicities in Sri Lanka. Promoting reconciliation requires reintegrating ex-combatants into civilian life and this is essential for post-conflict recovery.

Sathyanadan and his four brothers were born in Paranthan, Kilinochchi. In 1988 his brothers had to fight in the conflict.

“During the Mullaitivu battle in 1996, I lost my right hand and two of my brothers died,” he says.

After serving in the conflict for 17 years, he was sent for rehabilitation to help him integrate back into civilian society. Two years later, he is now the owner of ‘Kani Product’, a company that sells fruit flavoured drinks. Sathyanadan has been able to expand his business with support from UNDP’s project Promoting Reconciliation in Sri Lanka’.

Every morning, Sathyanadan drops his four children at school. He comes back home to make the drinks with his wife Kamaleswari and distributes over 1,000 cups a day in and around Kilinochchi and Jaffna.

Sathyanadan also hopes to move to eco-friendly packaging for his products as he plans to expand his business in the future. “I am happy to support my husband with the business and it helps us support our children with their education,Kamaleswari says.

Laxshy who is now 38 years old was born in Jaffna. In 1995, she and her family were displaced to Kilinochchi. At the age of 17, Laxshy also suffered the same fate as Sathyanadan. Along with her sister, she was badly injured and lost her leg.

Coming back from rehabilitation, Laxshy and her sister were determined to restart their lives. They moved to Jaffna to learn sewing at the Vocational Training Authority supporting persons with disabilities. Later they were selected by a livelihoods programme with support from UNDP, both Laxshy and her sister were able to open their own sewing shop in the Sandhapuram village in Kilinochchi.

“Through this journey, we got multiple resources as well as entrepreneurial skills to start a business. During the festive season we were able to recruit two assistants and we were able to increase our income. Now that we have our own sewing shop, we are planning to open a small factory in the future,” she says.

Ruban who is also a father of two daughters and a son says that there are many people like him who need help to transition back to civilian life.

“After rehabilitation, I started doing welding jobs in garages. UNDP has provided me with enough resources including welding equipment to start my own garage. Now I run my own welding job from home. Since I run a mobile welding service, I get calls from all over the town with a big demand.”

“I am very thankful to have received this support,” he says.

Reintegrating ex-combatants into society is a process that must be inclusive to ensure that they have equal opportunities to gain sustainable employment and income. In Sri Lanka, UNDP is continuing to support efforts of reintegration by enhancing entrepreneurial skills of those affected.

Through the project 250 former combatants such as Sathyandan, Laxshy and Ruban, have been reintegrated back into society with job training and livelihood opportunities.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promote sustained economic growth and higher levels of productivity. Encouraging entrepreneurship and job creation are key to this. With these targets in mind, the goal is to achieve full and productive employment, and decent work, for all — ensuring that no one is left behind.

Promoting reconciliation in Sri Lanka is a project implemented by the United Nations Development Programme with support from the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund.

Story, photos, and video by UNDP Sri Lanka

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