Cordaid: WOMEN AT THE FRONT LINE - reducing disaster risk - Bihar, India

13:15 Oct 1 2012 Bihar, India

Cordaid wants to mainstream and further intensify a solid gender sensitive perspective in its disaster risk reduction objectives. Implicit to Cordaid’s community managed disaster risk reduction programme people are involved that reflect the composition of the community: men, women, young people, elders and more. Still, getting women involved appears at times challenging. If women are present in certain committees, this does not necessarily mean that they are actively contributing. The challenge then remains to assure women are actually actively participating.
One solution that Cordaid has implemented is to set up separate women’s committees. Amongst themselves, women often feel more comfortable to raise their voice. A representative of the women’s committee, for example an older, powerful woman, can then reflect the opinion of the women when discussing disaster risk reduction with other village committees.
In 2007, Cordaid started its community managed disaster risk reduction in flood prone Bihar. This district is situated in the plains neighboring Nepal, in the Himalaya river basin, and is frequently suffering from flooding. The heaviest floods occurred the last 30 years. In Bihar it is unusual for a woman to engage in public activities outside the confines of her home. Therefore, most women were not involved in the activities from the outset.
A good example of such an engaged woman is Hatzina, who became part of the rescue team: “We now have more knowledge about disasters and what we should do in case of a flood. We are not dependent on gifts anymore, we can manage ourselves. During the last flood, we packed things into plastic to preserve them. A lot of important documents were saved this way. We also helped people to get to the embankments safely. We boiled cotton in water so it was hygienic enough to package food in it.”

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