Category Archives: Grassroots Network

Women come together under Community Practitioners Platform (CPP)

Purpose:  Build a common platform for communities to come together to transfer practices and advocate with government.

Community practitioners, government officials, and civil society organizations came to??????????????????????gether at PUSA Agriculture University, Samastipur, Bihar on May 7, 2013 to discuss the challenges and achievements in local partnership in addressing disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation and the role of grassroots women community.

More than 50 women leaders representing 13 NGOs and CBOS across Bihar, Orissa, Tamilnadu and Maharashtra have demonstrated different initiatives by community in addressing disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Women leaders from different states shared their problems in their area and how they have address to reduce the impact.

After introduction of the participants Naseem Shaikh from SSP has given a brief picture about Community Practitioner Platform and how SSP is going to present the recommendation from forthcoming session of Global Platform for DRR in Geneva from May 19-23.  She narrated how SSP is facilitating grassroots resilience initiatives across Asia, working with Huairou Commission and GROOTS International.

To make women more powerful and strengthen the grassroots community to access more resources and take lead in creating safety community, she explained the launch of CPP in Delhi in 2010. The strategy to develop leadership we promoted CRF fund, local planning, identify priorities and partner with local government. Mapping learning and resilience funds are the community design for resilience.

Women leaders from Bihar shared how they did vulnerability mapping in??????????????????????????????? the villages, identified risk and initial challenges in working with local panchayat, block officials and district authority. NGO partners who facilitated grassroots resilience initiatives explained the importance of learning and organizing dialogue with govt authorities and community women.

Godavari Dange from Sakhi Federation, Tuljapur articulated how women federation facilitated community in mapping agriculture resources, addressing water scarcity and drought in Maharashtra, mobilizing landless women to hire land on lease to start organic initiatives thru collective action and the role of Women Federation in linking Krishi Mahila Mandals (Agriculture Women Groups) to Krishi Vigyan Kendras, Agriculture Universities and District agriculture departments in Marathwada and Vidarbha regions of Maharashtra.

Grassroots leaders from Bihar, Orissa, Tamilnadu and Maharashtra shared their challenges in working with local government and how they overcome and bringing the change locally.

???????????????????????????????Anil Sinha, Vice Chairman, Bihar State Disaster Management Authority expressed his confidence in women leaders skills and capacity in addressing disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. He also recommended that HFA should be named as CFA (Community Framework for Action).

At the end of the programme recommendation was made to present to Global Platform for DRR in Geneva from May 19-23, 2013.


After HFA there should be COMMUNITY FRAMEWORK FOR ACTION (CFA): Develop community framework for action in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation for the next 10 years

CPP – SIMPLIFY THE LANGUAGE INTO LOCAL: Change the Community Practitioners Platform (CPP) into regional languages in a simple way that communicates to local people to understand grassroots practice. Encourage their communities to come up in their local language

PARTNERS AND (LOCAL) LEADERS: To strengthen partnership, leaders should develop from both sides. Partnership at local level is important

PUBLIC INFORMATION AND EDUCATION to reduce disaster: Work with govt on education and awareness on safety through songs, drama etc

UNDERSTAND RISK AND CONDUCT ASSESSMENT: Give vulnerability mapping and education a priority


GLOBAL VISION for LOCAL ACTION: Focus on local action. Learning exchanges should be promoted globally. Leadership, organizational power, vision of women leaders is more important to take it forward.

–          Swayam Shikshan Prayog, 2013


Learning exchanges: women’s groups lead the way

As a part of resilience initiatives in Bihar, grassroots women leaders organised learning exchanges in Darbhanga district in November 2011. These learning platforms provided opportunity learn from each other, understand their capacities, explore the possibilities of replication, how to the solve problems in partnership with local government, and what are the challenges to overcome.

The learning was more focused on new agricultural practices of the villagers, toilet construction
for BPL families, drainage, health and infrastructure. More than 100 women participated in two  such exchange events.

In Shiso village on Nov. 27, a learning exchange was organised by women’s groups. A total of 51 women were participated from 10 villages of Shivdaspur, Harichanda, Fulwaria, Rampurdih, Shishodih, Haripur, Jamalchak, Maulaganj. Alinagar, Karhatia.

The learning exchange started with the transect walk in the village. The learning community understood what problems villagers face and various measures taken by women’s groups at Shiso village.  They visited a low lying area where flooding is a major cause of worry year after year. They also discussed with the community about issues they face in their daily lives.

Then the community visited agricultural farms to learn about natural vermin compost, details of cultivating potato, radish, chilly, water melon, cabbage, beans and tomato etc.

Village mapping

When they came back to the village, women leaders facilitated the group to draw the map of the village. Women from all villages participated in this process. They identified the following hazards and vulnerabilities of the village: open defecation, water logged low lying area, disruption of children’s schooling after the floods, impact on agricultural production due to changes in the pattern of rainfall, problem in waste management that cause environmental pollution, lack of remunerative price for agricultural products, health care services for pregnant women, children and the aged etc.

They have concluded that this village is very much in need of a Primary Health Centre (PHC) to cater to the healthcare needs of five villages 5000 population. To bring the PHC to the village they formed a special team which is slated to meet district district officials this month to urge them to establish a PHC here. Since there was no public land available for the PHC, the community identified a private land to establish centre. They met the owner of the land and he agreed to donate the land. This is a great victory for women and a proof of their organisational and resource mobilization capacities.

The community also decided to access government subsidy for BPL families to construct toilets, and urged APL families to do the same towards achieving 100 % open-defecation-free village.

Waste dumping and school reconstruction at Siso

Dumping waste in school compound and damaged condition of the school building were the other identified problems of the village. Accumulated rubbish in the school leads to disease among children and degrades environmental hygiene. To solve this issue, women’s groups from the village met the Head Master of the school and told him to remove the rubbish and to prevent such dumping immediately. Moved by the appeal by such a large number of women guests to the village, the Head Master took quick action to remove the waste. Within two weeks the task was accomplished and he made an application to higher authorities to reconstruct the school building which was in dilapidated condition. The crucial victory for the women’s groups came as the reconstruction started without any delay.

Monitoring by women’s groups

Earlier teachers were not attending on time and left early. This was noticed by women’s groups and discussed in the SHG meetings. They began monitoring the attendance of teachers regularly. They also raised this issue with the Head Master when they met him regarding waste disposal. Since then the teachers are reported to be attending to their work on time. This is a victory for women group, children and entire families.

Swayam Shikshan Prayog, February 2012

Women’s Federation in Nagapattinam, Tamilnadu

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.

Resilience Initiatives

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.

Fund Management

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.

Learning Exchanges

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.

Local Advocacy

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.

Grasroots Network

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

Asian grassroots women at the forefront of resilient development

Grassroots women define resilience. This was the principal theme of a three-day regional Asian Academy on the Community Disaster Resilience Fund (CDRF) held in New Delhi. The women attending the Academy have a successful track record as leaders and activists responding to disaster, having pioneered innovative work on savings and credit, enterprise, food security, water and sanitation and health in their own communities, but they had not previously been able to develop a shared framework from which to operate collectively. This forum provided an opportunity for grassroots women to develop a concerted approach to resilience. The groups defined resilience as the ability to prevent the impact of natural disasters in communities combined with the ability to quickly recover from disaster. Women understood resilience as ways in which they were moving from an emergency response framework to one that protects and sustains development assets, changes public roles, promotes leadership and focuses on political organizing as a means to build an active citizenry that redresses development failures.

The meeting built on momentum from an earlier GROOTS India Leadership event designed to promote women as initiating and sustaining resilience in their communities. The group made the most of the opportunity to develop a shared understanding of resilience at the community level, explore and make action plans on the CDRF, and situate advocacy initiatives within the launch of the UNISDR Community Practitioner’s Platform for local implementation of the Hyogo Framework of Action. Bringing together over 30 grassroots women from across Asia from Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Nepal and 5 states in India, the session was organized by the Huairou Commission and GROOTS, and sponsored by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Dutch Ministry’s Millennium Development Goal Fund (MDG3), UNISDR and Cordaid. The meeting was facilitated by Swayam Shikshan Prayog and GROOTS International.

Concrete gains made by organized grassroots women

Grassroots leaders gave concrete examples of ways in which they were taking action to build resilience through:

  • Changing power dynamics: Women’s groups, through the community-based organization KPRM in Indonesia, mobilized a constituency of 70,000 urban poor in the 2008 Makassar election to leverage partnerships with the local government. This action resulted in the Mayor of Makassar signing a political contract at a public meeting to make DRR budgeted funds available to activities and priorities of grassroots women’s organization.
  • Action networks, advocacy and budget allocation: As a result of advocacy (and support from other groups in GROOTS India network), women’s groups in Maharashtra succeeded in getting the District Collector to allocate Rs 7 crore (US$ 1.4 million) from the district budget to repair two bridges and construct a canal water system for irrigation through the Government of India NAREGS program. In Bihar, as a result of sustained advocacy, local government departments changed the location of a bridge that allowed the construction and accompanying roads to serve as a barrier against future floods and waterlogged fields.
  • Reducing vulnerabilities and protecting resources: Women in Assam, India through the CDRF community groups, created grain banks to protect food security from recurring floods (24 grain banks in 24 villages). Any grain unused at year-end is sold, and money is put into a revolving loan fund. To date, the communities have raised 10 lakh (approximately $22,450 USD) to invest in health, education and livelihoods in their communities.

Grassroots leaders unanimously agreed that the portrayal of women as passive victims and beneficiaries through the disaster risk-reduction paradigm had run its course. Leaders insisted it was necessary to replace the current top-down paradigm of DRR that sees women as powerless victims with a holistic approach that links social, economic, political and environmental issues into a single framework. This shift would place the onus for resilient development in the hands of community women. As Wardah Hadfiz, Director of UPLINKS stated, “We should believe that it is our era of women. This is our time. We have to bring the expertise and power of community women to the forefront and make it a force within our movement.”

The shift in approach is perhaps best understood through the lens of the Community Disaster Resilience Fund (CDRF), launched in 2007. An initiative of the Huairou Commission and GROOTS International in partnership with the Alliance for Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction (AADRR) in India, and endorsed by the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) in India, the CDRF channels resources directly to at-risk communities, particularly grassroots women’s groups, to reduce vulnerabilities and scale-up effective pro-poor DRR practices through collaboration with local and national governments. The Fund recognizes that community-based groups cannot access development funds and challenges the current assumptions that community-based groups are not engaged in resilience-building activities, or that they don’t deliver and cannot manage funds. Gaining momentum and support, the CDRF is now active in eight states in India and 12 countries globally, and is a mechanism of the UNISDR Community Practitioner’s Platform.

To orient the other member networks in the Huairou Commission’s Campaign on Global Resilience on the process of the CDRF, facilitators described the 5-point interconnected star of the Fund as:

  1. Creating an understanding of risk and resilience (through hazard-risk mapping)
  2. Reducing vulnerabilities through the actions of grassroots women
  3. Advancing grassroots women’s leadership
  4. Building action and learning networks to demonstrate that grassroots women’s work can adapt the scale at which they work
  5. Initiating partnerships and linkages between grassroots groups and national and local government bodies.

Indian leaders from Maharashtra, Assam, Bihar and Tamil Nadu described the work they have been doing since 2007 as a result of their involvement in the first round of the Community Disaster Resilience Fund. It is important to note that these groups had never previously received untied funds to focus on preventative measures. The groups chose to use the fund in a variety of ways depending on their communities’ situational context, but all groups used the money as either a revolving fund or a fund to leverage government programs. Focusing their efforts on agro-based production, grain banks and seed banks, health and sanitation funds, group vegetable cultivation, and coastal plantation, women conducted hazard mapping, formed disaster task forces, created women’s markets, improved infrastructure, and strengthened relationships with government authorities to create a critical mass of champions (horizontally and vertically).

To further develop a shared regional framework on the CDRF, Indian grassroots leaders linked their actions through the Fund to the 5-point framework. An example that reflects the depth and scale at which women are working is in Maharashtra:

  • Creating a shared understanding of risk – In Maharashtra, women were given support from the Huairou Commission to assess their food insecurity. In doing so they mapped food supply chains – noting increased costs of vegetables and depleting nutritional levels in families. With an intention to mitigate the impact of changing climate patterns and food security issues brought on by an over-reliance of cash crops in local agriculture, women realized this was not sustainable.
  • Taking action to reduce vulnerabilities to food insecurity through networks – To provide immediate food for their families and communities, grassroots women became vegetable producers by learning techniques from older knowledge-holders in a nearby village (through the support of GROOTS India). Godavari Dange Bhimashankar, from SSP explained, “We have defied gender norms that prevent women from owning land or keeping the income from the products they farmed. We have been able to negotiate with our husbands for 1 acre of land per plot to farm vegetables.”
  • Partnerships with government authorities – Their success with farming has led to the agricultural department of India (KVK) agreeing for the first time both at the district and village levels to train women with innovative techniques for vegetable farming (including testing soil etc.)
  • Advancing leadership and organizing Ms. Jayashree Kadam, Federation Leader stated, “The big change is that women are now working together, deciding the prices to sell the crops and sharing the profits. This never would have been the case before.”
  • Building learning and action networks-Women farmers have expanded the joint organic vegetable farming groups to include 550 women in 35 villages through GROOTS India.

A meeting that produces results
These practices clearly demonstrate that in undertaking multiple, diverse roles, women are being empowered to shape the processes that affect their lives. It is no small feat that women are creating consultation mechanisms and funds through saving and credit groups. This allows them to reconfigure social relationships to generate and protect equitable access to resources at a time when governments are focused on transient approaches and “quick fixes.” Women are playing creative roles to safeguard their communities and build partnerships with government and institutional actors to do so.

From these presentations, the leaders from Nepal, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka asserted that they understood the CDRF to be an effective mechanism that will enable them to pilot innovative practices to:

  • Demonstrate women’s capacity to address community resilience priorities by putting money and decision making directly in women’s hands;
  • Disseminate the lessons learned across action and learning networks;
  • Scale up grassroots led initiatives to advocate to government and policy makers for pro-poor DRR programming/ planning.

As a result, all the groups were eager to design concrete action plans to implement the CDRF. Perhaps most exciting was the announcement from the Nepalese groups. They launched a National Resilience Network of 7 groups (as a result of attending the HC South Asian meeting in February 2010). Remarkably, they pledged their own resources (5000 Rupees each) from their saving and credit groups to the Fund to operate in 10 risk prone communities thematically on issues related to resilience (health, sanitation, landslides, and food insecurity).

Some women raised the issue of isolation (villages being in remote areas) and how being part of the Huairou Commission and GROOTS networks is seen as a support system, highlighting the importance of investing in horizontal networking. By linking their work together through a collective approach, grassroots leaders reasoned that they were part of a movement for building community resilience. Groups also understood that the work they were doing to safeguard development assets could be scaled up institutionally through the Community Practitioner’s Platform, which is being designed by the Huairou Commission and GROOTS International at the behest of UNISDR to convene community leaders and innovators to advocate for policies and programs that advance pro-poor, climate resilient development within the UN system.

The discussions throughout the week culminated in the launch of the Indian Community Practitioner’s Platform in New Delhi. All the groups at the meeting agreed to be part of the network of community based organizations and grassroots women recognized as stakeholders and advisors to the UNISDR in advancing the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action.