Building Community Resilience for Disaster Risk Reduction & climate change

Enormous potential exists to turn a "disaster" into an opportunity for sustainable community development. Furthering it's vision of bringing people from margin to the mainstream, SSP Swayam Shikshan Prayog has partnered actively with disaster affected community & women's groups to design and implement long term disaster response too development initiatives leading to powerful social transformation and community empowerment.

The Chinese do not use the word Disasters. They believe it is a bad omen. Instead, CRISIS is a word that represents two sides: danger and opportunity.

Intervening after the major earthquakes and the tsunami crisis in India, as an opportunity, SSP Swayam Shikshan Prayog or self education for empowerment, is a development NGO that has built resilience of women and communities at the grassroots in reconstruction and local governance.

As a result of its innovative approach in disaster recovery and resilience building, the organization and network has experienced a continuous expansion up to 60,000 women in self help groups (SHGs) across 1,100 villages in the most hazard prone areas in three states Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu in India.

Since its advisory role to the government and the World Bank in the massive post-earthquake rehabilitation program of Maharashtra in 1993, SSP has continued to contribute to reconstruction efforts in the wake of major disasters and bridged community experience on DRR with national development priorities through leading the formation the NADRR National Alliance on Disaster Risk Reduction (NADRR) in 2007.

Community Disaster Resilience Fund (CDRF): The Resilience Fund is a unique innovation that places funds directly in the hands of local groups to map the vulnerabilities, prioritizes actions to implement the DRR initiatives across eight states in India in partnership with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). Lessons were shared in the Global Platform for Risk Reduction (ISDR), June 2009 as part of the Community Resilience campaign of Groots International and the Huairou Commission.

Experience in DRR: SSP work has reduced vulnerability in over one million disaster-affected households in the last decade in three states Maharashtra (1993), Gujarat (2001) and Tamil Nadu (2004) through mass education on safe construction for house owners. Women house owners were encouraged to contribute to design and construction of their homes, while engineers and masons were monitored closely in the end, ensuring that earthquake safe houses were built.

Peer Exchanges: Expanding the scope of its work, experienced women's groups from Maharashtra were facilitated by SSP teams visited one week after Gujarat earthquake to transfer a long term reconstruction strategies in post disaster response. As a result, women's savings and credit groups and federations were established, communities were made aware of safety features, retrofitting technology, and community enterprises.

In all these major disasters across three states, the grassroots women's network of self help groups has emerged with capacities for long term sustainable resilience building beyond mere emergency response.

Grassroots Knowledge and Training Centers: Today ten centers provide support for the women's network and link to information and institutional players. Women's groups are monitoring community health and partner with the Government on employment guarantee scheme, drought and poverty reduction programs. Based on their economic advancements, women's groups have strengthened village assemblies and community planning processes making local governments more accountable on concerns around education services, livelihoods, community health mutual fund, water and sanitation, local governance etc.

Women's Health Governance groups: After the Tsunami (2004), SSP has strengthened the women's self help groups/networks firstly for community preparedness and recovery and later to address social and economic vulnerabilities. In all the communities, village level Women's Health Governance groups and Federations were established to address health water, sanitation risks /emergencies and demand quality pro poor public / private services. Over two hundred grassroots women have emerged as resource persons in DRR. They are at the center of SSP's capacities to transfer vision of grassroots led recovery and long term resilience strategy to Sri Lanka, Indonesia, across disaster prone South Asia and other regions.

Partnering with affected communities and women's grassroots networks yields rich dividends for community empowerment and grassroots democracy. The work of SSP and other groups has valuable lessons for restructuring recovery and DRR and climate change adaptation strategies.

Furthermore, SSP coordinates the Global Working Group on Disasters as a link between policy makers and local governments. It moderates a web forum as a node for sharing local initiatives and up-streaming lessons from grassroots initiatives. This platform provides rich resources and quarterly e-newsletters such as “Disaster Brief” and “Tsunami Update” on communities and disaster response.

© 2007 SSP. Site Design by Seventh Incorporated