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Putting Safety In People's Hands: Promoting Safer Building Practices

Swayam Shikshan Prayog. Workshop report by Upmanyu Patil and Prema Gopalan, 2002. 7 pp. Source: Proceedings - Regional Workshop on Best Practices in Disaster Mitigation: Lessons learned from the Asian Urban Disaster Mitigation Programme and other Initiatives, 24 –26th September, 2002, Bali, Indonesia, Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre and USAID. Available from: ADPC, P.O. Box 4, Klong Luang, Pathumthani 12120, Thailand, Tel: +66 2 524 5354, Fax: + 66 2 524 5360, Email:,

Further discussion of SSP’s work with women in post-disaster reconstruction is provided by Prema Gopalan, 2001, 'Responding to earthquakes: people's participation in reconstruction and rehabilitation'. Paper prepared for the Expert Working Group meeting, Ankara, Turkey. Available through the UN Division for the Advancement of Women:  

This well-known grassroots movement for Indian women’s empowerment has been increasingly involved in disaster response and reconstruction issues.

Quoting the website: “SSP initiated a community-led disaster response project in Latur and Osmanabad following the earthquake in September 1993. Between 1994 and 1998, SSP was appointed consultant to the Maharashtra Government to promote community participation in rehabilitation under the World Bank-supported project. . .After the earthquake struck Gujarat in 2001, SSP along with the local women's federations shared insights and experiences from Maharashtra with affected communities in Gujarat with lesser level of government collaboration. SSP's resource pool for transferring lessons consists of community and technical teams and 300 leaders of federations who have worked actively for post-earthquake rehabilitation in Maharashtra . In many villages, especially in the underdeveloped Kutch region, post-earthquake activities effectively became entry-points for SSP to set up and nurture SHGs that later played a key role in village development and governance initiatives. . . In the aftermath of South Asia Tsunami (Dec 2004), SSP outreach extended to a total of twenty-five tsunami affected villages in Cuddalore and Nagapattinam districts of Tamil Nadu. SSP has facilitated grassroots women to transfer innovations to strengthen community response for preparedness by undertaking risk reduction measures that address vulnerabilities - disaster safe shelter, sustainable and alternate livelihoods, access to health, water and sanitation, to address psychosocial issues, strengthen social networks to respond and intervene with priorities in mainstream rehabilitation programmes.”

SSP organizes events uniting women symbolically and politically for safer communities, for example:

December 2001: Sakhi Melava (“Women’s Gathering”). This meeting brought together more than 200 women survivors of the Gujarat earthquake with women from 25 villages affected by the 1993 Latur quake. Local women were not simply participants but facilitators and teachers who also learned about new quake-resistant building techniques and developed their confidence as leaders and speakers.

September 2001: Candle lighting ceremony uniting 4588 women from hundreds of quake-struck villages in remembrance of the Latur quake. Participants called for increased participation of women in meaningful ways in governmental disaster management programs and for linking sustainable community development, gender equality and disaster risk reduction.

Many publications are available through SSP describing their disaster reduction initiatiatives, for example:

Lessons From the Epicentre: Mainstreaming Women’s Initiatives in Disaster and Development, a document outlining the experiences learned by disaster-affected women and the development of the GROOTS peer learning model.

Women at the Epicentre of Transformation, a document describing the collaboration of SSP (India) and the Foundation for the Support of Women’s Work (Turkey) in cooperation with the NGO GROOTS (Grassroots Organizations Operating Together in Sisterhood).

Margin to Mainstream: Rebuilding Communities in Gujarat, a document describing woman-to-woman peer exchanges between women affected by earthquakes in India and Turkey and the efforts of SSP to train local women as community researchers, activists, environmental educators and home builders.

Status of Life in Temporary Shelters, Tamil Nadu , India - Study July 13-17, 2005. The study on the status of life in temporary shelters in Tamil Nadu covered a total of 2048 temporary shelter units in 11 villages in Nagapattinam and Sirgali talukas. The study found that the major problem faced by the communities in temporary shelters was of severe heat in summer and leaking of the structures in the rains. As far the shelter sites are considered, the impact of wrong site selections and negligence to undertake correct ive measures were seen as a major short coming.

The Lull After the Storm
, Community assessment by women leaders February 2005. Women leaders who participated in post- earthquake development work in Latur and Gujarat visited Tsunami-affected Tamil Nadu region and prepared an assessment report. Facilitated by SSP and Covenant Centre for Development (CCD), the report covered reconstruction activities in Nagapattinam and Cuddalore districts.

Our Life, Our Film
(25 minutes) 2004. Directed by eight grassroots women belonging to quake-ravaged villages of Kutch in Gujarat , this visual narrative walks the road with women and children in their struggle to rebuild their lives. The film received rave reviews in Indian media. To get a copy of the film, please write to us at:

Women Builders 2003, 'Breaking barriers in earthquake torn villages' is an account of women rebuilding habitats and restoring livelihoods after disasters. It tells how women's groups take the lead when there is space to take part in rehabilitation and development, with help from the government, donors and NGOs. To get a copy, please write to us at:

Key words: India, earthquake, housing, womenís self help groups, community management, guidelines