Logo SAVE - Sisters against violent extremism

12. June 2007

Podium KulturCafe © AnnA BlaU

On the podium f.l.t.r.: Minister for Social Affairs Dr. Erwin Buchinger, Dr. Edit Schlaffer, Archana Kapoor, project parnter in India and Dr. Jutta Stefan-Bastl, ambassador in New Delhi.

Publikum im KulturCafe © AnnA BlaU

FoG und Minister Buchinger © AnnA BlaU

f.l.t.r:  Dr. Erwin Buchinger, Dr. Edit Schlaffer, Archana Kapoor, Dr. Sheel Kant Sharma, Indian Ambassador in Vienna, Dr. Jutta Stefan-Bastl

Gruppe mit Äffchen © AnnA BlaU

Gruppe Kulturcafe &ocpy; AnnA BlaU

f.l.t.r.: Elisabeth Kasbauer, Archana Kapoor, Edit Schlaffer, Jutta Stefan-Bastl, Peter Stefan, Sheel Kant Sharma

On the boat with widows © Peter Stefan

Edit Schlaffer and Ambassador Jutta Stefan-Bastl with women from Kokilimedu in the Women without Borders boat.

Indian Men © WwB

Male villagers discuss the Women without Borders program

Buchinger, Kapoor, Sharma © AnnA BlaU

Minister Buchinger talking with Archana Kapoor and ambassador Sheel Kant Sharma

The Tsunami and the Women

We gave them a voice. A voice to stand up against violence and inequality

Project and film presentation on June 8th, KulturCafe Vienna

Official opening
Minister of Social affairs Dr. Erwin Buchinger
On the podium
Archana Kapoor / SMART, project partner India
Dr. Jutta Stefan-Bastl / Austrian Embassy New Delhi
Dr. Edit Schlaffer / Women without Borders

The Tsunami disaster from December 2004 is almost forgotten for many people. But many problems in the Tsunami affected regions still exist.
After the catastrophe international organisations rang the alarm bells and told us that women were often not reached by the international aid. One of the reasons: Women as heads of households were not registered in the official lists.
In addition to that, a lot of the incoming aid was taken by the men and sold in the local markets to get money for alcohol. Work on sea is a very challenging business. Many of the fishermen started drinking. Alcohol addiction became even worse after the Tsunami. Domestic violence is another key problem in the villages.

In cooperation with local organisations we initiated two successful projects “Connecting Women and Children for Hope” in the fishing villages Venpurusham and Kukilimedu and “Take your future into your Hands”, an economical empowerment project for widows and women 40+ in 25 villages in the Tamil Nadu region.
Women´s cooperatives were built, men rented boats and nets from the women and the savings were equally distributed amongst the community and education and health care was taken care of.  Women were motivated to learn how to drive; they were eager to participate in the driving instructions and even established a taxi service. Special health camps were organised, information campaigns on hygiene, reproductive health and nutrition were launched.
Women and girls learned how to swim to overcome trauma and fear of the water – innovative activities in these traditional societies.

The film „Life beyond Tsunami“ documents this best practice project in which disaster management was given into women’s hands – the most efficient strategy to reach out to the whole community.

Austria´s Minister for Social Affairs, Dr. Erwin Buchinger, describes this Women without Borders initiative as a new way which opens innovative perspectives for the communities:

This project shows how women got the chance to take their lives into their own hands and how they were acting as the driving force in developing their region and, above all,
they gained respect from the men. To be respected – men take it for granted, but women always have to win respect – this is unfair. But this exactly is a starting point for new and innovative steps.
For me, the most important result of these Women without Borders projects was the focus on the enhancement of female self-esteem – I cannot think of a more sustainable input.
What I really like is the intelligent way in which you involved men with all their various and prejudices. And I hope very much for this region that the results will have a long lasting impact."

Archana Kapoor together with her NGO SMART and a local team was leading the project in India:

"Coming from India I know that poverty has a female face. Especially in the fishing communities women have been denied equality. In order to reduce poverty, promote development and achieve gender equality, it was necessary to increase women’s access to economic resources, education and information. Our efforts helped them to get over the fears of not only another Tsunami but also of domestic violence. We gave them a voice to stand up against inequality and violence.
We are happy that today the communities that we have worked with are able to look at live beyond not only Tsunami, but beyond basic survival. They are looking at education, professional training for their daughters and sons, expanding business and employment in tech savvy companies.
With the support of the ministry we achieved a lot, but there is more to be done. We need to address violence. We need to work with the men; we need to evolve programs that include men. We need to make the women understand the difference between violence and accident

The Austrian ambassador in New Delhi, Dr. Jutta Stefan-Bastl, supported the project generously:

"You may all know that actually Indians did not accept international help after the Tsunami, and they thought that they could cope with the immediate disaster relief themselves; they had a huge disaster relief personnel and military. But little by little NGOs from outside were accepted.
The minister gave the key word with self-confidence of women. It's unheard of that women drive the cars; it's unheard of that they would learn to swim; it's unheard of that they protect their own projects!
When I was present in Chennai last time, we opened a cultural community center in the villages and there was one little girl who had made a poem by herself on strong women and the problems of the women in the Indian society. And I saw that some men took their shoes and just walked out. So it's just a sign that there is a long way to go, but I think it's the right thing to challenge and change the status in the Indian society.The Indian government is aware of that fact and projects like “Connecing Women and Children for Hope” are positives examples

The film „Life beyond Tsunami“can be ordered through, +43 1 533 455 1

We cordially thank Anna Blau for providing the photos!


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