As Sri Lanka navigates its way towards a transitional justice and reconciliation process, the human legacy of the intractable 30-year civil war cannot be forgotten. The war’s massive military assault against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) killed some 40,000 people and displaced a further 300,000. During this period, Sri Lanka experienced six years of authoritarian leadership implicated in a litany of human rights abuses. Families were torn apart as men were recruited into militias or the state army, many leaving behind widows and female-headed households. A country known for its cultural diversity and highest standards of education became known as a nation of refugees seeking security in any corner of the world.
Yet neither the decades of war nor the years of authoritarianism were able to fully decimate Sri Lankans’ thirst for peace, justice and democracy. Organizations such as the Association of War Affected Women (AWAW) engaged in track 2 mediation with the LTTE, created networks across the country in local communities, bridged divisions between politicians and activists and fostered space for shared vision and voice, in some contexts even in partnership with the police and other security sector actors. These efforts lay the groundwork to enable an extensive grassroots consultation with women in the worst war affected areas, resulting in the publication of the Sri Lankan Women’s Agenda on Peace, Security and Development in 2012.