Disaster Watch is a learning forum to support the mainstreaming of women-centered community-managed disaster initiatives.

It is an effort of the Huairou Commission coordinated jointly with the GROOTS International network, FSWW Foundation for Support of Women’s Work in Turkey and Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP) Mumbai India.

The earthquake hit Gujarat on January 2001 Looking Forward - community women leaders from disaster zones in India and Turkey dialogue with professionals and government in Gujarat, Feb 2002

1. Mainstreaming Community & Women’s Disaster Initiatives

Promote and strengthen best practices around community partnerships and grassroots women’s empowerment in disaster / conflict relief, rehabilitation and mitigation.

By creating a space to address disaster issues within settlements framework women's groups in Turkey (1999) and India (1993, 2001) Kenya and Honduras have used the disasters as an opportunity to rebuild homes and communities.
These experiences show that with little funding support women's collectives once organized, can intervene in planning for disaster and later development efforts. The result was that the social infrastructure -housing and basic services was sustained by enhanced capacities for participation and widening the base for civic self-reliance and grassroots democracy.

2. Monitoring social accountability of relief agencies, donors, governments and local bodies

Develop and facilitate use of participatory tools such as assessments, social audits and report cards by community stakeholders to monitor performance track inputs and recommend .

Disaster Watch Groups of experienced women community leaders and professionals have pioneered this methodology using Onsite Assessments followed by Dialogue Workshops in India 1993, Turkey 1999, and after the recent Gujarat earthquake, cyclones and floods to hold governments and international agencies accountable. As a result, community voices and priorities to policy and programming for investments in infrastructure and social sector.

3. Community to Community Exchanges

Exchanges among peer communities groups cuts across boundaries and cultures, most important they are at the heart of diffusion of lessons and innovations in dealing with disasters local to global.

Women are often the first responders within communities. At every stage, women’s collectives once organized have used indigenous knowledge and resources to restore livelihoods and rebuild shelters after earthquakes. When groups meet and exchange information, it creates best practice and develops community resource teams. After the Gujarat earthquake (2001), large numbers of women’s groups with previous experience visited survivors armed with information on coping measures. Their continued effort resulted in increased capacities for women to address credit, livelihoods and governance issues.

4. Media, Advocacy and Partnerships

Mainstreaming grassroots initiatives and lessons from community practice involves media advocacy, partnerships with the World Bank, UN and international donors to initiate, global campaigns, best practice awards, action research studies and video films that are used on a wide scale to influence policy shifts that are responsive to community plans. Disaster Watch web forum acts as a tool for exchanging and monitoring the disaster initiatives all around the world.

Focus of advocacy efforts are:
· monitoring of disaster management. Community centered disaster preparedness involving women centrally in planning,     implementation and scaling up.
· Lobbying for disaster planning linked to long term development efforts.
· Shift in funding and resource flow from infrastructure to building local capacities.
· Increased involvement of Local - authorities and communities in planning and


Jan Peterson - Huairou Commission, NY, USA
Tel: 718-388 8915 Fax: 718-388 0285 [email protected] , www.huairou.org

Sandy Schilen - GROOTS International, NY, USA
Tel: (718) 388-8915 Fax: (718) 388-0285 [email protected] , www.groots.org

Prema Gopalan - Swayam Shikshan Prayog, Mumbai, India
Tel: 022-23433855/ 23434730 [email protected] , www.sspindia.org

Sengul Akcar - Foundation for the Support of Women’s Work, Istanbul, Turkey
t[email protected]