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UNICEF supported vocational training offers hope and a new beginning for a former child soldier

By Ranjitraj and Suzanne Davey

The sound of a sewing machine resonates through the tin sheet roof of the ‘Kavichelvan’ household in a village in Sri Lanka’s North West district of Mannar. The eldest daughter ‘Priya’ is seated at her sewing machine stitching a leather bag. She expertly holds the hard fabric and darns a thin line of thread through it.

A few years back, life was quite different for Priya and her family. Sri Lanka’s Northern Province was raging in conflict causing displacement and suffering for many children and families like Priya. Her family lost everything they owned including Priya’s chance to pursue her education. Soon after tenth grade exams, Priya was recruited by the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam) to fight as a young soldier in their frontlines. This forced her to drop out of school and her dream to go to university.

At the end of the conflict, Priya along with other youth surrendered to the Government Army. After months of rehabilitation she was allowed to go back home to her village in Mannar. Shocked by their now sparse and temporary living conditions, Priya was pushed to find alternative sources to earn an income. Being the eldest in the family, she felt compelled to help her ailing parents and three younger siblings to now survive.

Few months later through a UNICEF supported project, Priya was selected for a six month vocational skills training course. She learnt to create and produce materials in leather such as bags, belts and purses. Priya is confident that after she completes the course she will be able to earn atleast U$100 per month by producing and selling her home made leather products.

She is also equipping her younger sister with some of the basic skills learnt during the vocational training course. “I want to buy another sewing machine, so we could both work to support our family” says Priya. Her efforts will soon help to double the family’s income. Priya is confident that her home made quality leather products can be easily marketed in the local shops and boutiques.

“I also want to teach others in my village” says Priya who is now very keen to help more families out of poverty and hardship”.



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