The Burden of War Widows

Gendered consequences of war and peace-building in Sri Lanka

by Karen Brounéus, Erika Forsberg, Kristine Höglund, Kate Lonergan, Third World Quarterly, Pages 458-474, Received 26 Aug 2022, Accepted 16 Aug 2023, Published online: 09 Sep 2023

Burden of War Widows Third World Quarterly Sept 2023

Publication CoverAbstract

Research shows that war affects various groups of survivors differently, yet the severe consequences faced by war widows are often overlooked. Combining insights from fieldwork in Sri Lanka with secondary sources, we conclude that the time is ripe for the daunting challenges of war widows to be brought into the limelight. We argue that widowhood after war is conditioned both by the post-war context and society’s gendered constructions. The social expectations that follow pose ­exceptional trials in everyday life for war widows globally. As an important case and illustrative example, we analyse Sri Lanka: a decade ago emerging from civil war; today, in dire need of economic and political transformation. We demonstrate how war widows are caught in the crossfire of demographic change, post-war insecurities, economic hardship, and gender discriminating norms and traditions. This unseen group of survivors play a critical role for the prospects for economic, social and political development in the transition from war to peace, in Sri Lanka and beyond. We conclude by calling for a concerted effort wherein research and policy come together to outline a new research and policy agenda with the aim of lessening the burden of war widows.

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