Participation of Women's Groups in the Earthquake Rehabilitation Program
Women's groups in two rural districts acted as an interface between people and the administration in the post earthquake program initiated after the large scale 'Latur' earthquake on September 30th, 1993. How did women get involved? SSP in partnership with women's groups used reconstruction as an opportunity to energize all the key actors - house owners, communities and government to work together in the reconstruction of houses.
According to a senior official, " the state government organized building materials at below market prices, provided financial and technical assistance. The women's groups in turn created collective purchasing groups, provided information and enthused house owners to contribute labor, finance and supervise houses ". These measures empowered the groups, the community and local self government institutions.
The mobilization of communities in the R&S; program is an example of partnership - between local communities and the government. The self help housing effort in 1,300 villages covered over 2,00,000 houses which were damaged. The end result of the earthquake rehabilitation program was a convergence of all actors. "Convergence was conceptualized that way - the involvement of everyone." The government acted as a facilitator, provided policy inputs, the NGOs ensured community involvement and participation, women's groups motivated the people, monitored earthquake safe construction. Meanwhile technical inputs were provided by institutions and the donor agencies provided financial inputs."
Most important, the opening up of information and feedback mechanisms by the government at the districts resulted in women's groups transforming the relationship between communities and the administration.
The strategy included:
· creation of an information network and training that included officials, communities and elected members and women's groups.
· tapping the potential of communities thereby catalyzing the local resources and capacities
· building of local skills of house owners - men, women and masons
· sustaining people's involvement in ongoing disaster mitigation and long term development processes
· reformulating the roles of a range of collaborators including NGOs as well as government to ensure community ownership and management.
These capacity building elements, we believe, have utilized the tremendous opportunities that disasters represent for catalyzing social change in the communities of the poor. Similar processes are equally replicable
in a range of development initiatives and anti-poverty programs and we encourage policy makers in government, multilateral and donor agencies and NGOs to multiply their use in their ongoing work with local communities.
The partnership between Mahila Mandals and the Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP) team was key to visible participation of women and communities. SSP took up the challenge of translating the government policy into a program that opened up opportunities for the widest possible participation of CBOs, Gram Panchayats, women and communities in a post disaster project.