When women joined together and think for the community make a good impact in their lives. This is a success story of women’s Federation from Nagapattinam that shows us grassroots women can make significant contribution in creating safe villages. They address sustainable livelihoods, disaster preparedness, climatic risk and local development.
Women’s Federation for Community Development and Disaster Management (WFCDDM), henceforth referred to as ‘the Federation’, was registered in 2008 at Nagapattinam. The Federation facilitates risk reduction activities in more than 20 villages.
The Federation mobilises SHGs at cluster to taluka and district level, negotiates with local government on various schemes and programmes, assists SHGs to link with banks and financial institutions, conducts learning exchanges, develops new women leaders as resource persons for DRR.
Facilitating hazard mapping and follow-up action
Federation facilitate vulnerability and hazard mapping in Nagapattinam district. Federation leaders visit villages and organise mapping with women leaders from the same village. After the mapping they help the village community to hold a dialogue with local government authority. If there is any that needs to be taken up with block or district level authorities the Federation leaders take women from the local village and negotiate with authorities for a solution.
They prompt the communities to review their mapping in every two to three months. If any new issues emerge or any issue that has not been solved, the Federation helps women’s groups to work with local authority or to start working it out by themselves.
Women’s Federation supports SHGs to build resilience of their communities. They monitor the related activities of women’s groups, guide and support them in creating safe villages. They also organise learning exchanges to see and learn from other villages new practices in agriculture, sustainable livelihoods and income generating activities that benefit the whole community and environment. Federation now supports women’s groups in starting vermin compost, organic vegetable cultivation, coir making etc.
The Federation has developed a system for monitoring the fund flow and activities of women’s groups. The Federation’s team at the cluster level has at least one women leader from the village in the monitoring committee. They visit the village to monitor the activities and train SHGs in maintaining resisters and accounts. The monitoring committee organises meeting every month and report back to villages.
Developing partnership with local government is important in building resilience at village level. The Federation organises dialogues with government officials, NGOs and other stakeholders in development at village, cluster, and district levels to highlight women’s initiatives in creating safe village as well as to point out the problem faced by community.
Creation of Community Resource Persons
During the mapping and focus group discussion they identify good leaders who have potential to become trainers and resource persons in DRR. They give training to by sending them to neighbouring villages to teach new communities and develop them as resource persons in DRR.
The Federation facilitates women leaders training by creating calendar, identifying emerging leaders, and scaling up the initiatives and base of leadership.
Training and learning is an important capacity building measure for women members. Federation takes up this activity as a priority. They identify innovative initiatives in disaster risk reduction; visit such habitats and identify the potential for replication. If they find it useful, they select women leaders and send them for learning. Most of the changes in the villages have occurred after learning from other villages and their women leaders.
Learning exchanges produce more leaders, new initiatives and innovations that grassroots communities can practice and scale up. They conduct inter village, inter district and state learning exchanges. Last year most of the learning exchanges were focussed on organic farming, vermi compost, market, Federation network and local partnership.
When local partnership improve and women get a space in decision making Federation organise local dialogue workshop with government officials and civil society organisations. They highlight the success stories of women groups, problems and challenges they face during their initiatives, kind of support required form government and financial institutions and how these good initiatives can be promoted.
They use this forum to build strong relationship with local panchayat. So they get space in airing the views in Gram Sabha, participate in implementing MREGA and other government programmes, etc.
Federation has a grassroots network across India. They have formed Groots India Network in 2009. The network is active with grassroots leaders from Maharashtra Bihar and Tamilnadu. They conduct inter state learning exchanges, share their experience, organise state and national dialogues with government in resilience building, participate in workshop and conference to height women’s involvement in DRR etc.
– Swayam Shikshan Prayog, February 2012