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Empowering Indian women after a natural disaster hits

Hyunjee Oh's picture
In June 2013, a heavy deluge caused devastating floods and landslides in the state of Uttarakhand in India’s Himalayan foothills. Damyanti Devi, the mother of a young daughter, lost her home and livelihood. Her old house in Rudraprayag was completely washed away by the landslide.
In June 2013, a heavy deluge caused devastating floods and landslides in the state of Uttarakhand in India’s Himalayan foothills. Damyanti Devi, the mother of a young daughter, lost her home and livelihood. Her old house in Rudraprayag was completely washed away by the landslide.


This blog is part of a series exploring housing reconstruction progress in Uttarakhand, India.
  
In June 2013, a heavy deluge caused devastating floods and landslides in the state of Uttarakhand in India’s Himalayan foothills.
 
The disaster – the worst in the country since the 2003 tsunami—hit more than 4,200 villages, damaged 2,500 houses, and killed 4,000 people.
 
Damyanti Devi, the mother of a young daughter, lost her home and livelihood. Her old house in Rudraprayag was completely washed away by the landslide.
 
“The river was fast swelling up,” she said. “It had crossed the danger mark and reached close to our house. We just took our daughter and left with an umbrella and a lantern.”
 
She now owns a new house abuzz with music and her daughter’s laughs.
 
Like thousands of other people in Uttarakhand, Damyanti received support through the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) to rebuild her home.
 
This support channeled through the Uttarakhand Disaster Recovery Project (UDRP) also helped build better roads and mitigate future disaster risks in local communities.
 
A key component of the project was to rebuild 2,382 more resilient houses based on the owner-driven housing reconstruction model,  which allows families to rebuild according to their specific needs.
 
This community-driven approach is important as women are typically at greater risk from natural hazards than men, particularly those who are poor and live in low-income countries.
 
There is indeed strong evidence that disasters impact women differently and amplify gender inequalities.
 
Women and men have different perceptions of their surroundings and coping abilities, roles, responsibilities, and resources before or in the aftermath of a disaster.
 
Gender-sensitive approaches to disaster prevention, mitigation, adaptation, relief, recovery, and reconstruction can save more lives and promote more gender-inclusive development.  

With that in mind, the  housing reconstruction component of UDRP helped empower women like Damyanti in the aftermath of a disaster in 4 different ways:

Joint accounts in the name of both husband and wife

In areas affected by the disaster, most women did not have a bank account. UDRP encouraged families receiving support to open joint bank accounts in the name of both husband and wife to ensure that women could access formal financial services and promote transparency in aid payments.

A total of 1,256 joint bank accounts were opened, covering nearly 53 percent of all beneficiaries and including a significant number of previously underserved and unbanked women.

Equal rights to own land

UDRP encouraged joint titling of the land attached to the newly rebuilt houses. Ensuring women’s ownership of land helped empower them. Women now had collateral assets to apply for a bank loan and developed a greater sense of socioeconomic security.

Participation in consultations

Women actively participated in the entire housing reconstruction process from early consultations to rebuilding work. Female social mobilizers engaged with women and included their feedback into the design of new houses. This approach encouraged women to proactively supervise day-to-day masons and construction workers at the site while their husbands were away at work.

Construction of toilets

Open defecation has been an ongoing public health hazard in India. The lack of toilets also exposes women and girls to gender-based violence when they wander out of their homes alone or in small groups to relieve themselves in the open.

To improve sanitation and ensure women could access a safe and private space, every house built under UDRP was equipped with toilets. To that end, female social mobilizers helped sensitize women to the benefits of having a toilet in a house. This initiative reflects the open defecation-free agenda in Uttarakhand under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission).
 

Empowering Indian women after a natural disaster hits



 

 

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