Girl - Connecting © Elisabeth Kasbauer / FoG

Connecting Women and Children for Hope ©Elisabeth Kasbauer/WwB

The scale of destruction in Tamil Nadu is hard to describe © IWID

India - Connecting Women and Children for Hope

A Tsunami-Relief Project in Chennai / South India

It is hard to describe the scale of destruction or the loss of life which the never-before earthquake-triggered Tsunami tidal waves brought in their wake across several coastal districts of Tamil Nadu. Its suddenness and ferocity have left at least 7980 dead and uprooted and displaced hundreds of thousands more.
The Tsunami may have made no distinction between men and women in the grim death toll it reaped with its waves, but it has produced some gender-specific after-shocks, which need immediate attention. While patriarchal attitudes pose a disadvantage for women in their normal lives, the disadvantages women suffer in a disaster situation become more acute.
The relief measures announced by the government are loaded with this bias as well. Since the government distributes and implements relief measures on the basis of household list approved by the local community, most of the relief materials and entitlements do not reach single women and women-lead households. These are not even enumerated in the list of beneficiaries as the prevailing patriarchal attitudes of the local community which recognizes only male member as the head of a household, does not recognize single-women and women-lead as constituting a separate household.

Together with Archana Kapoor and her NGO SMART, Seeking Modern Applications for Real Transformation, a non-profit organization which is working with the marginalized sections of society, especially women and children, we are realizing this project which supports women in various aspects.

We are constructing women´s cooperatives in the two affected fishing villages Kokilimedu and Venpurusam at the Southindian coast; supplying the women with fishing boats and nets, which they can rent out to the fishermen. At the same time a community and health center will be constructed in each village. In this building monthly workshops and trainings on different issues will take place. Health is a special target. Other aims are the formation of youth clubs, the purchase of 3-wheelers, driving training for women and a playground for the children .

Expected outcomes:
- Women will have a distinct sense of their own identity.
- The material ownership will engender a sense of dignity as well as enhanced negotiating power in the personal, social and political arenas.
- The process of forming women’s groups with owning assets and the consequential participation in decision-making processes will enable solidarity among women and create spaces in the future for making their voices heard on social, economic and political issues. This ensures that this prject has sustainable and positive impact on both the practical and strategic interests of women.
- As a result of the extensive documentation of some elected village communities, a replicatable and adaptable concept for the development of gender-sensitive and secure structures in traditional village communities will be created. Thus this project will have a model character and can be used for comparable catastrophes.

This  project is funded by the Austrian Ministry for Social Security, Generations and Consumer Protection.

The project is further supported with funds raised at the “Nacht der Wiener Wirtschaft” (Night of Viennese Commerce) hosted by Mayor Dr. Michael Häupl on February 5th 2005. Thank you very much! Mag. Ali Rahimi, Rahimi&Rahimi sponsored a rug for an auction for this project. Thank you very much! Furthermore, we would like to thank the following for the generous financial support: The Association "Künstler helfen Künstlern" (Artists help Artists),  Österreichische Lotterien (Austrian Lotteries).

Edit Schlaffer and Elisabeth Kasbauer have been in Chennai in June 2005 to start the project. The purchase of  nets and 3-wheelers happened in July; also the women´s cooperatives were organised and women started to learn how to drive in july too. The community and health centres are beeing build, and the youth clubs, special health trainings and a group of alcoholics anonymous started their monthly acitivities at the end of July 2005.

In an extensive fieldtrip in December 2005 Elisabeth Kasbauer had the chance to make interviews with the villagers and document and evaluate the project. Please click here to read a report on this.

In January 2007 Edit Schlaffer and Elisabeth Kasbauer went for another fieldtrip, please read a short report here.

This Tsunami rehabilitation project ended in summer 2007. Thanks to the financial support of the Austrian Ministry for Social Affairs and Consumer Protection we were able to initiate sustainable initiatives in the two fishing villages Kokilimedu and Venpurusham.
Archana Kapoor, our project partner who is also a filmmaker and Women without Borders representative in India, produced the film “Life beyond Tsunami” which was presented together with Austria´s Social Minister Dr. Erwin Buchinger in June 2007 in Vienna.
Please follow the links to read two reports on the project "We are gonna win..." and “Together in the same boat”.
In spring 2005 Edit Schlaffer published an article about the Tsunami catastrophe and its impact of women in the Austrian weekly magazin Profil. Please read "Between Water and Land".



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