SAKHI FEDERATION & SWAYAM SHIKSHAN PRAYOG

Press Release
Latur, September 30, 2003


OVER 4000 RURAL WOMEN LIGHT CANDLES
TO MARK TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF LATUR EARTHQUAKE

Women demand greater roles for communities in development       __________________________________________________________________
                                                                              A Flashback

4588 women, from nearly 800 villages of the Marathwada region and the states of Gujarat and Karnataka came together for an emotional ceremony marking the tenth anniversary of the earthquake that struck on September 30, 1993. The earthquake measured 6.4 on the Richter Scale and hit eastern Marathwada killing over 7900 persons and 15,000 livestock.

"Life should go on, whatever nature decides to play with us. I got the strength to get on with my life because of the association I had with my fellow village women" said Sunita Madole from Ambulga, a village of earthquake-hit Latur.

Women joined hands in lighting candles in remembrance, and raised a series of demands for the future. "We need a separate women's development fund as we are keen that our girls have a better future," stated Kantabai Patil from Ambulga. Other demands included larger roles for communities in disaster preparedness programmes and long term development activities, cutting down alcohol abuse and promoting better health care, water and sanitation facilities and education.

The disaster changed the face of the region and the lives of people here. Mr. Dilip Deshmukh, the guardian minister for Latur district, launched "Swalikhith" (women's own stories) and "Women Builders", (a book on community-based rehabilitation in earthquake-hit areas), saying that it was encouraging to see that women are taking a lead role in development activities. "Men are yet to come out of their agony. Perhaps they may take lessons from women," added the minister.

Well-wishers of the women included family members, development workers, health professionals, humanitarian volunteers, media representatives and government officials. Amongst the officials present was district collector for Latur, Krishna Lavekar.

The event was inaugurated on September 29th in Latur with an exhibition by Sakhi Federations of village women's groups, the government health department and disaster management authorities, among others. It was preceded by a press conference held in Mumbai by women from Marathwada and areas of Gujarat hit by the 2001 earthquake.

"Ten years has been a long and difficult time for the people, especially the women in Maharashtra. What we are seeing now is their continued commitment and determination to fight back and get on with their lives, whatever may be the tough ground realities," said Prema Gopalan, Director of SSP, a development organisation that facilitated the event.


Mangaltai Patil                                                                                                                                   Smita Sawant
Sakhi Federation, Maharashtra                                                                                                          Field Coordinator, SSP