Women's Information Centre constructed
by the women's collection in Usturi Village
About us
SSP's Toolkit:

1. Background

Since 1994 to 1998, post earthquake efforts involving participation of community was initiated in Latur and Osmanabad districts of Maharashtra. This project gave us an unique opportunity to work on rehabilitation, reconstruction and development. Swayam Shikshan Prayog - SSP jointly with SPARC worked as consultant for community participationith the Government of Maharashtra. The Reconstruction, Repair and Strengthening (SSP)  program covered two hundred thousand households in the two districts of Latur and Osmanabad. In over five hundred villages, the SSP team mobilized women's groups / Mahila Mandals to work as Samvad Sahayaks or village assistants in the reconstruction program.

Wherever there was active participation by communities, the efforts initiated new development processes and mobilized local resources. Women came out and participated in the self help house construction program (as construction labor). Earlier in the Marathwada area, women were trained to supervise earthquake resistant construction. In addition, the women leaders initiated Gram Sabhas or village assembly and linked with Gram Panchayat members - to solve common problems such as water, transport, availability of masons etc.

Capacity building of women's groups
occurred through wide range of learning activities. Women from five hundred groups participated in melavas, shibirs, conducted vil
lage surveys, gave feedback to officials at taluka and district. From the reconstruction efforts, it was seen that there was a need to develop Mahila Mahiti Kendras which meet information and training needed to upgrade capacities of local artisans.

2. Strengthening local capacities

The Mahila Kendras would support and strengthen a local network of community based groups. Over fifty
Mahila Mandals have shown tremendous interest in taking responsibility for operationalising Mahiti Kendras. Majority of these groups have acquired land for construction of Kendras, mobilized community contribution women volunteers as labor and selected women volunteers as labor and selected women for training as masons. These Mahila Mandals have development managerial and technical skills for the reconstruction program.

At the cluster of ten villages, they continue to network with other groups on issues of common concerns. Presently all Mahila Mandals have formed savings and credit groups, and linked to banks. As community
resource teams, they monitor the functioning of schools, health centers, anganwadis, and address issues
such as drinking water management, natural resources, etc. They interact with development institutions,
taluka administration and gained credibility at all levels. 

In the demonstration phase we have completed construction of three centers in 1998 which highlight :
       Women's groups as managers of construction and infrastructure projects
       Training of women masons
       Demonstration of low cost alternatives for construction, sanitation, production of building materials
       Women's groups as facilitators as facilitators between communities and administration.

3. Mahila Mahiti Kendra

The Mahila Mahiti Kendra was conceptualized as a multi purpose activity center which symbolizes the local planning action and experimentation by women's groups and community actors.

A Mahila Kendra is a space where women groups from surrounding 15/20 villages can go for information, training, workshops, melavas, meetings with government officials, learning exchanges with other groups.

The MMK will work as a service center for the surrounding clusters of communities.

The Kendra itself is built as a demonstration building which can suggest to groups various earthquake resistant (and low-cost) options. Moreover, the MMK will rely on a team of trained women masons and construction supervisors, and it will relate to Nirmiti Kendras (construction centers) for regular technical support.

The Kendra will be in constant contact with Mahila Mandals in the cluster and with actors involved in village development, flow of information both from government to the cluster and vice-versa.

MMK will play an important role in disaster preparedness, this by providing information and technical assistance related to Earthquake Resistant construction, both for traditional and new technologies.

Finally, the kendras themselves will function as small, mobile construction centers, producing low-cost building components such as stone Crete blocks, stabilized mud blocks, cement tiles, etc. They will be equipped with light block making machines and cement mixers which can be moved wherever construction is going on.

Activities :
Information, networking and training amongst women groups, elected members
Dialogue with administration at district/taluka
Linking community groups with local development
Active participation of women in housing and construction
Information and training on disaster management
Participatory mapping for development of women's groups, elected members.

4. Partnership
The MMK is a collaboration between Mahila Mandals, NGO's, Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP) and the District
Rural Devolopment Agency (DRDA). In all cases:

      Mahila Mandals have secured the land through negotiation with the Gram Panchayat and/or private             owners. They are contributing labor, supervision/management, locally available building materials
hey are raising funds through collection of donations.

      SSP is facilitating the process, organizing and managing the training sessions, providing.

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