Grassroots resilience by women groups


Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP)––Self Education for Empowerment––is a learning and development organization that improves the lives of some of the world’s poorest people. Based in Mumbai, India, SSP offers skill-building and income and health-enhancing opportunities to rural women and youth. Committed to creating long-term sustainability, SSP develops and works with women’s collectives on the grassroots level, and more broadly, partners with a variety of local, regional, national and international organizations.

SSP is a global and national leader on community led recovery and building resilience of women and communities in the face of disasters and sudden climate crises. SSP and its grassroots networks have spearheaded innovations, a highlight being the Community Disaster Resilience Fund, which puts funds directly into the hands of local women’s networks. SSP partners with GROOTS International and Huairou Commission to ensure that grassroots priorities are brought to the national and global disaster-reduction agendas.

Intervening after the major earthquakes and the tsunami crisis in India, as an opportunity, Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP) 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, organization & network has experienced a continuous expansion up to 72,000 women in self help groups across 1,000 villages in the most hazard prone areas in 3 states Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamilnadu in India.

Peer Exchanges: Expanding 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 the major disasters across three states, grassroots women’s network of SHGs has emerged with capacities for long term sustainable resilience building beyond mere emergency response.

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. They are at the centre 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.

Our experience in India shows, that, for the women led resilience initiatives to sustain, groups need to leverage poverty reduction/development funds from local /district governments. The key ingredients at the local level are setting up a collaborative engagement platform and building a cadre of local climate resilience champions – both local governments and women’s groups who can advocate for adaptation/resilience strategies).

Community Disaster Resilience Fund (CDRF): SSP’s role was crucial in designing and implementing the  Community Disaster Resilience Fund (CDRF) pilot initiatives in India. CDRF is a mechanism that channels funds directly to at risk communities to reduce vulnerabilities and build resilience. This work was done as part of Alliance for Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction (AADRR). Lessons learnt indicate that scaling up would have to address the sustainability of community level initiatives by linking them to resources at the district level. This requires grassroots and other levels of advocacy to reshape priorities of poverty reduction/development funds to focus on climate adaptation, food security, and sustainable development.

Learning from this pilot initiative, CDRF will be implemented in Asian countries such as Philippines, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Indonesia. This will strengthen the community initiatives that link to local government authority in leveraging resources for development initiatives and building community resilience.

Impact: SSP work has reduced vulnerability in over one million disaster affected households in the last decade in three states 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 at end, ensuring that earthquake safe houses were built.

Scale up: Lessons and strategies from the experience of earthquake reconstruction initiatives in Latur have expanded to Gujarat and later post tsunami Tamilnadu prepared community to build back better and sustain the initiatives.

The experienced leaders from these areas have transferred their learning to Tsunami affected Sri Lanka and earthquake affected communities in Nepal.

Disaster Watch
Swayam Shikshan Prayog facilitates Disaster Watch ( a platform for grassroots communities for sharing the lessons and learning in resilience building.


  •     Community to Community learning and transfer
  •     Hazard and Vulnerability Mapping
  •     Rapid assessment of Climate threats and solutions
  •     District level Disaster Risk Fund with community contribution
  •     National level Community Resilience Fund at  high risk areas
  •     Post disaster initiatives that has reduced vulnerability in over one million disaster affected households in the last decade in three states

SSP has launched more than 600 women from low-food security areas to start vegetable production and marketing in their communities since 2008. Collectively purchasing seeds and fertilizers; tapping into seed banks, and learning organic farming methods, the rural women’s collectives have started meeting their families’ nutritional needs. SSP plans to scale-up to 10,000 grassroots women in vegetable production initiatives before 2012.


Swayam Shikshan Prayog | Phone: 022 26211476 | E: | W: | | 101, 1st Floor | 76 Baptista House | Gaothan Lane No. 1 | S.V. Road | Andheri West | Mumbai – 400 058 | India


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