Northern Sri Lanka has been at the heart of the country’s 30-year civil war, a bloody conflict which has given rise to an estimated 40,000 households headed by women in this region. Based on fieldwork conducted in 10 villages and towns, this ePaper aims to identify and describe the most pervasive economic, physical and psycho-social vulnerabilities that female heads of households (FHHs) in the north face in the post-war context. It also traces how the state has shaped these vulnerabilities through its pursuit of a national security agenda under the guise of “reconstruction.” The response strategies that FHHs have deployed in response to these vulnerabilities range from the creation of innovative livelihood opportunities to acts of “everyday politics” that contest the structures of patriarchy and state-led domination which attempt to marginalize the diversity of FHHs’ stories, hardships and responses. These findings suggest that, rather than being passive victims of socio-political manipulation and oppression, FHHs are highly vulnerable but active agents in their own lives. Though inevitably influenced by unequal power relations and gendered norms, through their response strategies, they also contest the narrow identities constructed for Tamil women and their simplistic portrayal as either “powerless victims” or “empowered warriors”.