Front Cover
 About the authors
 Natural disasters: A growing development...
 Reshaping disaster response to...
 Supporting affected women in earthquake...
 Centering women's participation...
 Creating spaces for women in relief,...
 Transferring skills and experience:...
 Back Cover

Group Title: Seeds
Title: Women's participation in disaster relief and recovery
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00088790/00001
 Material Information
Title: Women's participation in disaster relief and recovery
Series Title: Seeds
Physical Description: 37 p. : ill. ; 26 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Yonder, Ayse
Akcar, Sengul
Gopalan, Prema
Population Council
Publisher: Population Council
Place of Publication: New York
Publication Date: 2005
Subject: Disaster relief -- Developing countries   ( lcsh )
Women in community organization -- Developing countries   ( lcsh )
Non-governmental organizations -- Developing countries   ( lcsh )
Disasters -- Social aspects -- Developing countries   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. 36-37).
Statement of Responsibility: by Ayse Yonder ; with Sengul Akcar and Prema Gopalan.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00088790
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 62193811
lccn - 2006367564

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    About the authors
        Page i
        Page 1
    Natural disasters: A growing development challenge for poor women and their communities
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
    Reshaping disaster response to establish opportunities for women and communities
        Page 5
        Page 6
    Supporting affected women in earthquake recovery: Two innovative NGOs in India and Turkey
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
    Centering women's participation in reconstruction efforts in India: The SSP experience in Maharashtra
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
    Creating spaces for women in relief, recovery, and reconstruction efforts in Turkey: The foundation for the support of women's work (KEDV)
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
    Transferring skills and experience: Marathwadi women's groups support earthquake-struck Gujarati women in taking action
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
    Back Cover
        Page 38
        Page 39
Full Text

Women's Participation
in Disaster Relief and

by Ayse Yonder
with Sengul Akcar and Prema Gopalan

i -

. 4t.*
I z"'C

Li -



is a pamphlet
S series devel-
oped to meet
requests from
all over the world for information about
innovative and practical program ideas
advanced to address the economic roles
and needs of low-income women. The
pamphlets are designed as a means to
share information and to spark new ini-
tiatives based on positive experiences
from projects that are working to help
women generate livelihoods and to
improve their economic status. The pro-
jects described in this and other issues
of SEEDS have been selected because
they have served not only to strengthen
women's productive roles but also to
integrate women into various sectors of
social and economic development. All

projects documented in the SEEDS
series involve women in decisionmaking,
organize women locally, and address
broader policy issues that affect the eco-
nomic roles of women.
These reports are not meant to be
prescriptive, because every development
effort will face different problems and
possibilities. Rather, they have been writ-
ten to describe the history of an idea and
its implementation in the hope that the
lessons learned can be useful in a variety
of settings. They are also being written to
bring to the attention of those in deci-
sionmaking positions the vital roles that
women play not only in the economies of
their individual households but also in
the economic life of every nation.
This edition of SEEDS is made possi-
ble by support of the Ford Foundation
and the Population Council.

$ Population Council

The Population Council is an international, nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that
seeks to improve the well-being and reproductive health of current and future generations
around the world and to help achieve a humane, equitable, and sustainable balance between
people and resources. The Council conducts biomedical, social science, and public health
research and helps build research capacities in developing countries. Established in 1952,
the Council is governed by an international board of trustees. Its New York headquarters
supports a global network of regional and country offices.

Population Council, One Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, New York, New York 10017 USA
Tel: (212) 339-0500, fax: (212) 755-6052
E-mail: pubinfo@popcouncil.org or seedseditor@gmail.com

Any part of this publication may be copied or adapted to meet local needs without permis-
sion from the Population Council, provided that the parts copied are distributed free or at
cost (not for profit) and that the source is identified. The Population Council would appre-
ciate receiving a copy of any materials in which the text is used.

Number 22, 2005 ISSN: 073-6833

Copyright 2005 The Population Council, Inc.

c '' ----

Bb. -r P

Women's Participation
in Disaster Relief and

by Ayse Yonder
with Sengul Akcar and Prema Gopalan

About the Authors
Ayse Yonder is Professor of City and Regional Planning
at the Graduate Center for Planning and the Environ-
ment, Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. Her re-
search and publications focus on informal land and
I i ii L markets and community development. She
started working on postdisaster planning issues after
the 1999 Marmara earthquake in Turkey. Sengul Akcar
and Prema Gopalan are founding and current execu-
tive directors of the two NGOs featured in this edition,
KEDV, Istanbul, Turkey, and SSP, Mumbai, India.


SEEDS is pleased to publish its twenty-
second pamphlet: Women's Pa.ricipation
in Disaster Relief and Recovery by
Professor Ayse Yonder with Sengul Akear
and Prema Gopalan.
Since this pamphlet was researched and
prepared, the world has been reshaped
(i ii i ii' i,-. by natural disasters. In late
December 2004, a record-breaking earth-
quake in the Indian Ocean produced a
powerful tsunami killing more than
225,000 people and forcing more than 1.2
million people from their homes in seven
Asian countries, in Somalia, and in parts
of East Africa (UNICEF Ii r'.). Months
later, in July 2005, two successive hurri-
canes-Dennis and Emily-struck a
number of Caribbean islands, Mexico,
and the Gulf Coast of the United States.
Although the loss of lives was minimal,
the economic loss was severe-in excess
of five billion dollars (of which half was
borne by the Caribbean).
The past three decades of disaster
relief and reconstruction efforts bear evi-
dence that the poor are the most vulner-
able and the most severely harmed by
such events. Yet too little attention has
been given to the gender-lll- 1 i1k:iii. 1
effects of natural disasters, that is, wom-
en's losses relative to men's, how wom-
en's work time and conditions change (both
in terms of care-giving and income-gen-
erating work), or how disaster-related aid
and entitlement programs include or mar-
ginalize affected women. Similarly, few
practical examples can be found show-
ing how affected low-income women can

participate in postdisaster relief and re-
covery and secure decent l. oii i,.' liveli-
hoods, and the restoration of basic serv-
ices for themselves and for their If riiih
The detailed case studies from three
earthquake-stricken areas in India and
Turkey that are contained in this SEEDS
pamphlet help fill this information gap.
They provide examples of how low-income
women who have lost everything can form
groups and become active participants in
the relief and recovery process. Readers
learn how women became involved in
housing, created businesses, mobilized
funds, and provided crucial I ,liii,, il .
services.' The pamphlet also examines
the roles that NGOs and government
policy and procedures play in facilitating
(or impeding) women's involvement.
The structural barriers to reforming
disaster aid and recovery programs to
respond to the realities and needs of low-
income women are substantial. Yet, Won-
en's Participation in Disaster Relief and
Recovery indicates that when grassroots
women's groups can form networks to
transfer and scale up their innovative
approaches across many poor communi-
ties, these networks can also press for
the political and policy change that is
required (see SEEDS editions 18 and 20
for other examples). The case studies
suggest that as the numbers of disasters
increase, donors would do 1 to invest
in the collective organizing power of af-
fected women.

Sandy -. 1,1. !, SEEDS Editor

The women's groups featured in the pamphlet were documented at particular points in time. II con-
tinue to organize and experience gains and losses. For current information on their activities, contact
_ ,_ i ,

Women's Participation in

Disaster Relief and Recovery

by Ayse Yonder
with Sengul Akcar and Prema Gopalan

Natural Disasters:
A Growing Development
Challenge for Poor
Women and Their

Disasters destroy lives, disrupt the social,
economic, and political fabric of commu-
nities, and can erase decades of develop-
ment gains, sometimes in a matter of min-
utes.1 Today, despite increased invest-
ments and advances in hazard-manage-
ment technology, human and economic
losses from natural disasters are rising
annually worldwide. Natural events, com-
mon in the developed North as well as the
developing South, turn into disasters
when conditions of vulnerability (poverty,
insecure housing, overcrowding, rapid rates
of urbanization) compound the damage
(Hewitt 1998; Davis 1999). The combina-
tion produces devastating results: Devel-
oping countries account for 95 percent of
all deaths caused by such disasters and
suffer losses that are 20 times greater (as
a percent of gross domestic product) than
those of industrial countries experiencing
similar events (World Bank Group 2005).
Natural disasters are multiplying de-
velopment problems across the develop-
ing world. Table 1 lists some of the recent
losses from earthquakes, hurricanes,
cyclones, and floods in Asia, the Ca-
ribbean, Latin America, and the Middle
East. Losses from natural hazards are
expected to rise with increasing rates of
urbanization and to occur in the largest

metropolitan areas of the world, all
located in the South (Smith 1996).
At the local level, disasters compound
social exclusion and existing vulnerabili-
ties, disproportionately taxing the poor,
women, and children. The United Nations
Handbook for Estimating the Socio-
economic and Environmental Effects
of Disaster (2003) emphasizes that one
consequence of disaster "is the decapi-
talization of women and the reduction of
their share of productive activities in the
formal and informal sectors." Women are
disadvantaged in two ways:

Not only do they sustain direct dam-
ages or production losses (housing
and means of production), but they
also ... lose income when they have
to apply themselves temporarily to
unpaid emergency tasks and an in-
creased amount of unpaid reproduc-
tive work, such as caring for their
children when schools are closed ...
Such reproductive work is usually
granted a lower status than paid
work .... It is also a continuous job
which limits women's mobility
and can sometimes even prevent
them from exercising their rights as
citizens. (p. 46)

According to this research, women
suffer four types of indirect losses fol-
lowing disasters:
Loss of productive employment out-
side the home (domestic, industrial,
or commercial);
Loss of household production and
income (including that of the back-

I Disasters are categorized in two ways: "natural" disasters, a term that traditionally refers to earthquakes,
cyclones, volcanic e J I.Ji ..0 1 !i.,l .1 I ,I ..ii and "man-made" disasters, which include wars, riots, indus-
trial and biological accidents, droughts, famines, and epidemics.


Table 1 A Selective Review of the Losses from Recent Natural Disasters in
Developing Countries
Location (year) Type of disaster Estimated deaths Estimated homeless
Sumatra, Indonesia (2004) Earthquake, tsunami 174,000 500-800,000"
Bar, Iran (2003) Earthquake 43,000 60,000
Gujarat, India (2001) Earthquake na 620,000
Orlssa, India (2001) Cyclone 10,000 na
China (2000) Floods na 1.5 million
Venezuela (1999) Floods/landslides 50,000 na
Caribbean coast (1999) Hurricane na 200,000"
na = Not available.
Sources: British Broadcasting Company (2005); United Nations Commission on Human Settlements (UN-Habitat) (2001).

yard economy and of small business-
es run by women from their homes);
Increase in reproductive work; and
Other economic damage resulting
from outstanding debts or loans.

Women's restricted mobility and ac-
cess to assets and resources make their
links to everyday survival precarious and
increase their iih,. i liill before, dur-
ing, and after disasters (I -.1 )R 2001).
,1.lil,.,i natural disasters vary in ori-
gin, in suddenness, and in I',' 1;. 1 ,}.ilil .
(with regional drought in Africa develop-
ing slowly, for example, in contrast to the
rapid massing of a hurricane), disaster
response conunonly divides into short-
and longer-term stages. Although each
disaster is unique, response efforts tend to
occur in phases: search and rescue, im-
mediate relief (for immediate medical
help, shelter, sanitation, and food), recon-
struction and recovery, and long-term
development. The immediate relief stage
includes offering assistance to lessen
human suffering and providing disaster-
affected families with help and supplies to
meet their basic daily needs. Relief activi-
ties -In. ii include providing food, water,
sanitation, temporary housing, psycholog-
ical and social support, and basic health
services in impermanent settings (for
example, tent cities). This stage can last
from three months to a year, d( i i. ii, l-, on
local conditions, and engage a range of
international and local nongovernmental
(NGOs) and governmental organizations.

Reconstruction and i i are stages
of postdisaster response f .11 1.1 I relief.
Typical priorities in this period include
relocation of affected communities to safer,
sturdier temporary housing (for example,
prefabricated settlements); large-scale re-
pair and construction of permanent hous-
ing; restoration of running water, elec-
tricity, and sanitation; and establishment
of community health and education facil-
ities. Relief i 11 .i .I also include restoring
food supplies (and food security in rural
areas) and commercial activities. This
stage --iill. lasts two to three years,
depending on the level of damage sus-

trained and access to resources, and it
marks a period when affected families
need clear information about entitlements
and other opportunities associated with
restoring their assets and livelihoods.
Community i '.-!.'' .. li, is the only
practical solution for poor countries
located in high-risk areas. The locals
are the ones who can bring any effec-
tive help in thefirstfew hours, and it
is their capacity that has to be
strengthened. This is less heroic than
fl..',, in after the event waving fist-
fuls of dollars, but it is cheaper and
demonstrably effective (IFRC 2001).

Across these stages, serious problems
arise over what, when, and how disaster
aid is delivered. International agencies and
national governments typically provide
emergency assistance in a top-down man-
ner that reduces affected people to victims
and passive recipients of aid. In a period
when community involvement and coop-
eration could be encouraged and survivors
could regain a measure of self-reliance by
participating in setting priorities and dis-
tributing supplies, information, and work
during the relief stage, agencies behave as
benefactors and do things for, not with,
survivors. This behavior wastes funds
and fosters dependency and cynicism
within affected communities-problems
that carry over to the recovery stage.
Emergency relief and aid processes
particularly disadvantage women who
must organize food provision, shelter,
and child and family care according to
chaotic aid-delivery systems and entitle-
ment procedures that rarely take their
work or opinions into account. Although
women commonly organize themselves
to distribute supplies, establish shelter,
and pool labor and resources to create
community support services to meet basic
family needs in the emergency period,
their efforts are often invisible or go un-
acknowledged. For instance, after Hurri-
cane Mitch hit Central America, "most
relief workers expressed surprise at the

range of women's involvement, (but) some
purposely excluded women from activi-
ties based on their assumptions about
gender roles" (Delaney and Schrader
2000:16). Whether by neglect or intent
"field accounts amply demonstrate how
unwritten and unexamined policies and
practices disadvantage women, exclud-
ing them from food distribution systems.
.. limiting their access to paid relief work
programs, or excluding women survivors
from decision-making positions in relief
programs" (Enarson 2004:13).
Poor women face a number of hurdles
in applying and qualifying for aid, includ-
ing limited literacy, limited access to
information on how to apply and navi-
gate the bureaucracy, and eligibility
requirements that exclude them. More
frequently than not, entitlement guide-
lines in the relief and rehabilitation stage
favor men over women, giving priority to
property owners, tenants of record,
bank-account holders, and perceived
heads of households. Where employment
assistance concentrates on workers in
the formal economy and business aid is
awarded to formal enterprises, women's
economic position is eroded further.
In the reconstruction period, entitle-
ment programs focus on individuals and
their loss of property. This approach
favors owners in affected communities
and geographical regions and excludes
or harms nonowners (the poor, women,
and ethnic and other minorities). It also
assigns priority to bricks-and-mortar
programs to build housing, infrastruc-
ture, and business and tourist facilities,
neglecting the priorities of the poor, who
rely on informal economic subsistence
activities and collective pooling of re-
sources to survive and cope with crisis.
Although it is well documented that
women's economic losses during disas-
ter can be extensive, conventional disas-
ter response has not been adapted to
take women's productive and reproduc-
tive activities into account or to reflect


how important housing and informally
held resources and assets are to women's
security. As a consequence, postdisaster
aid and investments generally under-
mine women's collective capacity to sur-
mount day-to-day problems and erode
their economic base. As Enarson (2004:
14-15 notes:

Women's work is heavily impacted
by disasters, and their economic
losses can be extensive. Domestic
work. increases enormouslyj ivhenl
support ., ;such as child cure,
schools, clinics, public tranisporta-
tion and famiily I networks are dis-
rupted or destroyed. DaUmagejd living
spaces are damaged uioorking sp)ac(s
bfr women. For those whose iln-
come is based on homeunork, the loss
of housiIg means the loss of
work-space, tools, equtipnet, i'vetn-
tory, supplies andr markets. [In addi-
tion,] do'lmstic violence appears to
increase when met''s sen se of control
is diminished in disasters.

What conventional rescue and recov-
ery programs that focus on delivery of
food and iii-1,i large-scale construc-
tion projects, and environmental engi-
neering programs fail to recognize is that
women's participation in decisionmaking

in all these undertakings could go a long
way to sustain ..!,111i it recovery once
emergency measures are lifted.

Reshaping Disaster
Response To Establish
Opportunities for
Women and

Postdisaster response and recovery pro-
grams represent huge investments by
development and humanitarian relief
agencies. Since 1 I' the World Bank
alone has invested ...ii '- .-. billion
dollars in loan commitments for i. .ii .f
that included at least one disaster com-
,.,,i ii (World Bank 2004:1). As devas-
tating as natural disasters are,'l, .- can
become focusing events, leading to
improved future development:

Disasters should also be( s('ee (ns as
opporlthity to improve pre-e.risting
cod(litions, including se.r equity.
Reconstruction, therefore, should
not be thought of siniply as a process
of replacing) what has been lost, b't
also as an opportunity to perfbrm
actions that make tht e h,,ost '.n(er-

privileged groups less vulnerable,
favor sex equity and improve living
conditions for women, especially
those who are heads of households.
(UNECLAC 2003:45)

Postdisaster recovery can be seen as an
opportunity to channel and leverage
investments to upgrade the living stan-
dards of the poor, to enable the most mar-
ginalized to participate, and to establish
dialogue mechanisms between affected
citizens and government to foster
accountability. It is a chance to "build back
better" and apply principles of sustainable
development and hazard reduction to
communities and regions that are likely to
remain at high risk of future disasters. To
encourage such an approach, analyzing
how the various stages of disaster re-
sponse could be redesigned, is important.
During the relief phase, an infusion of
funds and technical assistance often
flows to the area, conventional rules and
practices are questioned, and previously
excluded groups-such as ethnic minori-
ties and poor women-are informally
involved and take on new roles. Disasters
literally push women out of the confines
of their homes and neighborhoods and
lead them to take on nontraditional roles

in the name of insuring their families'
survival and well-being. For example,
after Hurricane Mitch, women in Nicara-
gua and Honduras hauled cement and
dug out wells; built temporary shelters,
latrines, and temporary water-collection
systems; and hauled away damaged
fences, roof material, and agricultural im-
plements (Delaney and Schrader 2000).
In many other recent postdisaster
recovery situations, including those in
India, Jamaica, and Mexico, women have
been active in rebuilding their communi-
ties. Field reports confirm that women
take the initiative in calling grassroots
community meetings and organizing dis-
aster-response coalitions (Enarson and
Morrow 1998). They outnumber men in
the leadership and membership of emer-
gent grassroots groups working on disas-
ter issues (Fothergill 1998; Enarson 2002).
Analyses of the Mano community in
Kobe, Japan, and of the Mulukutu com-
munity of Nicaragua, for example, have
suggested that those communities with
pre-existing strong organizations and/or
women's groups were able to respond
quickly, mobilize community resources
efficiently, and reduce the amount of
damage when disasters struck.


Even in marginalized conununities,
natural disasters such as floods and hur-
ricanes have inspired women living in ex-
treme poverty to take action and organize
their own self-help initiatives. For exam-
ple, in Honduras, the Garifuna, an ethnic
group of African descent watched their
already poor communities be decimated
when Hurricane Mitch swept the country
in October I' '. Aid and relief programs
did not reach their isolated North Atlantic
coastal town and villages, and residents
were forced to fend for themselves.
The Emergency Committee of Gari-
funa (Comite de Emergencia Garifuna)
was formed right after the hurricane
struck by a small group of community
residents in Santa Rosa-eight women
and four men. Deciding to work together
and pool their limited resources, they
started by going in boats to save those
stranded in high waters and by sharing
the food 11t had. The group quickly
expanded and started working on a range
of livelihood, community development,
and governance initiatives. Women who
had lost all their crops organized small
cooperatives to pool their few resources
and cultivate their land together. In re-
mote areas, people who had lost nets and
other fishing equipment began working
in groups and giving part of their catch
to the committee to distribute to those in
need. Instead of approaching the author-
ities for aid to build houses one by one,
14 single mothers whose homes were
destroyed banded together to set up new
homes. '.' ir Ii a year, they were fighting
opportunistic i rl,.i to grab Garifuna
land along the coast, including a pro-
posed constitutional amendment that
would have opened the coast to multina-
tional corporations and large-scale
tourist development.
Six years after the Mitch disaster, the
Comite operates from an office in the
settlements of Trujillo, but women still
meet regularly in each other's homes or
at the community center to discuss their

work, and they travel to other Garifuna
communities along the coast to support
them in improving local conditions.
Focused on food security, they organize
fishing and the planting of banana and
yucca, and they operate community
seed and tool banks for collective sup-
port. To guard against future catastro-
phe, they have bought land to relocate
some villages to higher ground and invit-
ed trainers from the Jamaican Women's
Construction Collective who taught
dozens of residents to identify and build
hurricane-safe roofing in 2004. The same
year, the United Nations Development
Program's Equator Initiative Program
selected this community-based organi-
zation as one of 26 best global practices
in community involvement in managing
natural resources and promoting sus-
tainable li hl! ..... I and environments.
Yet far more information is needed to
bring about a shift in disaster response
and investment toward poor communi-
ties and the women .1- II :. -! 1 L, to reorga-
nize daily life in them. To date few, if any,
in-depth case studies have documented
long-term development-oriented disas-
ter responses organized by women's
groups over an extended period. Little is
known about practical ways of support-
ing and sustaining women's participation
for a three-to-six-year period in commu-
nities' emergency assistance, recovery,
and hazard-reduction initiatives.

Supporting Affected
Women in Earthquake
Recovery: Two
Innovative NGOs in
India and Turkey

In the following sections, we present
case studies from India and Turkey that
address the gap in information and that
provide a clear indication of what has
already been done and how much more
is possible.


These case studies describe how
groups of local women formed and orga-
nized to secure housing, livelihood activ-
ities, and basic services after earth-
quakes struck two states of India (Maha-
rashtra and Gujarat) and the Marmara
Region of Turkey. In both countries,
women-focused, nongovernmental orga-
nizations from outside the devastated
areas (Swayam Shikshan Prayog, or SSP,
in India and Kadin Emegini Degerlen-
dirme Vakfi, or KEDV, in Turkey) reached
out to and organized local women's groups
to enable women to participate in relief
and recovery processes and to build the
skills and capacities necessary to sustain
their involvement. Because many NGOS
offer direct services to communities rath-
er than facilitate community participa-
tion, it is useful to examine the origins,
shared approach, strategies, and work-
ing styles of the Indian and Turkish orga-
nizations involved. Such an examination
illuminates ways in which NGOs can
work differently to support and sustain
women's involvement from postdisaster
recovery to long-term development.
Swayam Shikshan Prayog (translated
as "learning from one's own and others'
experiences") in India and the Kadin
Emegini Degerlendirme Vakfi (translat-
ed as "the foundation for the support of
women's work") in Turkey, are two non-
profit organizations founded in the 1980s,
each having more than 15 years' experi-
ence working with women and poor com-

munities. Both organizations grew out of
social movements in their countries and
focused on helping women organize eco-
nomic activities and participate in local
development. Although SSP is primarily
rural and KEDV is focused on urban
areas,2 they share an approach to work-
ing with women that includes the follow-
ing elements:
They function as technical and
financial resource partners to help
local women's groups organize, plan,
and implement long-term initiatives.
They leverage funds, identify innov-
ative grassroots practice, and teach
methods that allow women's groups
to participate in and lead communi-
ty-to-community learning exchanges.
Both groups believe women's ef-
fectiveness is strengthened by expo-
sure to successful peer initiatives.
They work with, and have the re-
spect of local authorities, govern-
ment officials, and other decision-
makers. And, in conjunction with
women's groups, they both worked to
sharpen decisionmakers' apprecia-
tion of women's contributions to re-
lief and reconstruction programs.
Most importantly, they persuade
government officials to establish for-
mal protocols and mandates that
recognize and provide resources for
women's involvement.

2 SSP reflects the existence of a mature NGO sector in India that emerged along with the Indian govern-
ment's antipoverty programs and efforts designed to assist poor women. Many of these organizations have
their roots in the Ghandian movement that began during Indian Independence in the late 1940s and in a
strong Indian women's movement. In the 1980s, international funding encouraged a proliferation of new
types of autonomous, decentralized women's organizations that were critical of the social welfare approach
and that focused on the empowerment of women at the local level. Most of these groups worked with mahila
mandals (women's collectives in rural areas that were set up by the government and by NGOs). KEDV
grew out of the 1980s feminist movement in Turkey, when, for the first time, several new groups emerged
that were independent of political parties or labor unions. Some of these groups took up issues of political
representation while others concentrated on the issue of violence in society, especially violence against
women. The 1980s in Turkey was also a period of structural adjustment policies under a military regime,
during which wage levels dropped, income I ..i i,: I, ir, reached unprecedented levels, and more women
entered the labor force under increasingly insecure and marginal conditions, without benefits or support
services. KEDV was unique among the feminist groups in its choice to work with poor women in settlement-
based centers on their social, economic, and community development concerns.


They are committed to networking
and sharing their experiences with
other community-based women's
groups elsewhere that are involved in
development and disaster-response
initiatives as a means of improving
their own programs and to pressing
for program and policy change that
will create opportunities for poor
women nationally and jlI il, .
Both organizations try to disseminate
the lessons ili have learned, informing
policy design through advocacy and dia-
logue with major p. .1 I i I and fund-
ing agencies locally, nationally, and

II-, two organizations became ac-
quainted in I' '". when they participated
in the United Nations Habitat Confer-
ence in Istanbul. KEDV was chairing the
NGO host committee and SSP was active
in workshops on women's initiatives in
human settlements. Both groups are
also members of the GROOTS Interna-
tional network," so they came together
again in 1999 when SSP hosted a
GROOTS exchange in India, enabling
KEDV leaders to see how the women's
groups organized after the earthquake in
Maharashtra. This exposure and infor-
mation was invaluable when an earth-
quake struck Turkey later the same year,
and it intensified bonds and direct collab-
oration between the two organizations.
Although SSP and KEDV used differ-
ent strategies to help women participate
in the postdisaster recovery processes,
both groups saw disaster response as an

opportunity for i, li li i I-, positive change
in long-term development of poor and
working-class communities. They recog-
nized that significant government and
international resources were being allo-
cated to the earthquake areas and that
the crisis created new "j.. i.,ii .. for
collaboration among community groups,
NGOs, and the government. T1, also
saw i ,it mistakes being made and
resources wasted and knew that poor
women would suffer the most if this
waste continued. SSP and KEDV seized
the opportunity to support women in
organizing and participating in the
reconstruction and development pro-
cess. Together, their partnership with
community women's groups offers a
detailed overview of the potential for
women's involvement in postdisaster
S* .. I- and reconstruction.
'Ili. case studies described below
present women's experiences with earth-
quake recovery in chronological order,
starting with the 1993 Maharashtra earth-
quake and women's work repairing and
strengthening houses. A description of
women's efforts to establish centers for
women and children ,ii.' i,'g the earth-
quake in the Marmara region of Turkey
in 1999 follows. The examples conclude
with an account of women in Gujarat,
India, who became active :-i- iii_', the
2000 earthquake there when SSP and
the grassroots women's groups from
Maharashtra traveled to this neighboring
state to share experiences and pledge
long-term assistance.

Grassroots Organizations Operating Together in Sisterhood (GROOTS) International is a global network,
established in 1989, by autonomous locally focused grassroots women's .. .., ., and NGOs working in
poor communities around the world. Members share an interest in increasing opportunities for peer learn-
ing among grassroots women's groups, promoting a new development knowledge base, generated from
women's experiences and practices, and in engaging systems of public power to promote a shift in gover-
nance strategies to include low-income women. In the context of postdisaster response, GROOTS is link-
ing groups who share a vision of engaging women in redevelopment and in processes that prevent future
hazards from devastating the poor communities. It sponsored the majority of community learning ex-
changes described in this pamphlet, and with a sister coalition, the Huairou Comnmssion, is working with
multilateral institutions and innovative donors to change policy and progranuing to ensure that women
participate in postdisaster response and mitigation initiatives. Specific elements of this advocacy are out-
lined in the conclusion. For more information, see 1,1 i .1,...I ..... or Ilr, I i

Centering Women's
Participation in
Reconstruction Efforts
in India: The SSP
Experience in

India is one of the most disaster-prone
regions in the world. Floods, cyclones,
droughts, and earthquakes hit South Asia
every year, causing substantial human
and material losses. About 57 percent of
India, mostly in the northern Himalayan
region and the Deccan plateau in the
southern and central sections, is prone
to earthquakes (Parasuraman and Unni-
krishnan 2000).
In the past 12 years, two major earth-
quakes devastated communities in the
west/central section of the country. On
30 September 1993, an earthquake with
a magnitude of 6.3 on the seismic scale
hit the Latur and Osmanabad districts in
the Marathwada region of Maharashtra
State. Fifteen hundred villages lay in the
epicenter of the quake, and 69 of them
were totally destroyed. Official figures
placed the death toll near 8,000 and the
number of those injured at 16,000. Ma-
terial losses included more than 200,000
houses categorized as seriously dam-
aged. Eight years later, another earth-
quake with a magnitude of 8.0 hit the
Bhuj District in neighboring Gujarat
State on 26 January 2001, disrupting
lives in more than 620,000 households in
cities and villages and resulting in the
deaths of more than 20,000 people.

The Maharashtran State
Government's Recovery
Programs in the Marathwada
Nationally and at the state level, India had
never faced a calamity as large as the 1993
Marathwada regional earthquake. The
five-year rehabilitation program, launched
by the Government of Maharashtra with

World Bank support, estimated to cost
US$216 million, was one of the largest in
the country's history (Martin 2003). The
government decided to relocate the vil-
lages hit hardest by the earthquake to
new settlements and invited private and
voluntary agencies to build the new hous-
es and requisite infrastructure. For the
1,300 villages that were partially dam-
aged, the government launched the Re-
pair and Strengthening Program (R&S)
to rehabilitate as many damaged houses
as possible. Accounting for the largest
share of government aid, the R&S pro-
gram was designed as a homeowner-
driven, self-help initiative that offered
each affected family a grant of 17,000
rupees (approximately US$425) toward
the repair of their dwelling. Participating
families were offered payments in stages
if they provided family labor, additional
materials and transport, and hired
masons, and supervised the repair and
strengthening of their houses.
From the outset, the program had
problems. Access to information, techni-
cal support, and coordination were major
obstacles. By giving subsidies for repair
work to individual homeowners rather
than to community groups, the program
encouraged patronage, competition, and
corruption. For example, politicians took
control of identifying and listing which
households were eligible for subsidies.
Those homeowners who accepted the
subsidy and began the repair process,
found that masons were overcharging
them or providing faulty construction.
The appointment of more than a thou-
sand government engineers to oversee
and expedite reconstruction compound-
ed the situation. Many engineers demand-
ed bribes to provide homeowners with
the certification they needed to qualify
for additional payments, and the majority
were unwilling to share information, train
homeowners, or resolve problems.
Although "people-friendly" policies
and community participation were in-


tended to be innovative aspects of this
program, neither the World Bank nor the
government transferred decisionmaking
power or resources in a manner that
enabled village committees to form and
function. Gender concerns also were miss-
ing from the reconstruction and commu-
nity-participation strategies. Despite
women's central role in the home and
their related work, 11 h were categori-
cally ignored and socially excluded from
l.1 ,iiin- design, and repair processes
associated with the recovery of their
homes and local communities.
Meanwhile, tremors continued for a
year after the quake, and many home-
owners began to doubt that their tradi-
tional mud-roof and stone-wall houses
could be made safe. Lacking information
on construction technology and new de-
sign features, many believed that they
needed new concrete houses and reject-
ed the Repair and Strengthening Pro-

gram. In village after village, people were
frustrated and mistrustful of the com-
plexities of the reconstruction process;
the R&S program was coming to a stand-
still, and the government's I. lilil
was at stake.
In late 1994, the state government of
Maharashtra appointed Swayam I l-ii I i! i1
Prayog (see Box 1) as its consultant to
insure community participation in the
Repair and Strengthening Program in
300 Latur and Osmanabad villages. This
assignment required SSP to balance its
role as an advisor to the state with its
identity as an NGO committed to transfer-
ring decisionmaking power to local com-
munities and especially to women. The
time pressure to move villagers back into
safe housing was great because it required
SSP to find practical and innovative ways
for the residents of 300 villages to learn,
cooperate, and ,i .I1- new technology and
construction techniques rapidly.

Box I

Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP):
A Maharashtran NGO Strengthening the
Organizational Capacity of Rural Women
and Their Role in Local Development

Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP) was formal-
ly established as an NGO in 1988 to build
the capacities of rural women's groups to ac-
cess and manage development resources
and to participate in decisionmaking pro-
cesses affecting their families and communi-
ties. SSP's program experience was devel-
oped in the late 1980s in a pilot I, .!I i,'-i ,-
tive effort with the government to enhance
women's economic participation in an exist-
ing antipoverty program (DWCRA), funded
by UNICEF (the United Nations Children's
Fund) and the national and state govern-
ments. SSP facilitated a dialogue between
community-based women's groups and local
government officials in six districts in the
Marathwada region of Maharasthra State.
During this period, SSP piloted methods
such as districtwide information fairs and
community-to-community exchanges and

dialogues for women designed to help them
to learn to work with banks and government
T. ,i SSP, with a staff of more than 60,
partners with women's collectives and com-
munities across 889 villages, including 1,680
savings and credit groups that represent
more than 22,000 female members. These
women's groups address urgent issues such
as credit, food security, water and sanita-
tion, health, education, and social infra-
structure by initiating demonstration pro-
jects, community planning, and skills train-
ing, and by increasing their participation in
local governance. To support these efforts,
SSP, with headquarters in Bombay, operates
field centers in the Maharashtran districts of
Amaravati, Beed, Latur, Nanded, Osmana-
bad, Solapur, and the Gujarat districts of
Jamnagar and Kutch.

Marathwadi Women's
Involvement in Recovery and
When the government appointed SSP to
facilitate community participation, its
staff-community organizers, engineers,
and others-first looked at what had
gone wrong or "gone missing." Through
interviews, village mapping, and the use
of rapid-appraisal techniques, they creat-
ed a picture of the problems as well as
the potential. The government authori-
ties clearly lacked a common view of how
to implement the program and what
roles should be played by those involved
(district officials, engineers, local gov-
ernments, and affected residents). Vil-
lage officials and homeowners lacked not
only basic information but also opportu-
nities to discuss and evaluate what was
happening. In response to these prob-
lems, SSP undertook two concrete tasks:
training government officials to dissemi-
nate information and facilitate bureau-
cratic processes (such as entitlement and
procurement) and identifying communi-
ty groups that could catalyze and engage
local residents.
The latter task led SSP to decide to
revive and reorient the government-
established women's groups (mahila
mandals) as community agents for
involving households in the Repair and
Strengthening Program. By means of a
large-scale publicity campaign (pam-
phlets and newspaper and radio ad-
vertisements), meetings were organized
with 500 women's groups throughout the
two affected districts. Large numbers of
women gathered for these events. They
evaluated the current program and dis-
cussed how women's groups could take
the lead in creating visible community
processes for participation. From this dis-
cussion, the idea emerged that women's
groups would nominate members to make
up a team to work as official village infor-
mation and communication assistants

(samvad sahayaks) within the R&S pro-
gram. To formalize these positions, SSP
negotiated with the government so that
the state, not SSP, would pay the samvad
sahayaks to work in this capacity. In this
way, the mahila mandals were recognized
formally as the official interface between
the communities and the government
administration. Between April 1996 and
March 1998, 300 samvad sahayaks were
appointed in as many villages.

Managing large-scale home
repair programs
In a mistrustful, deadline-driven, and ini-
tially hostile environment, the women's
groups had to prove that they could in-
form, motivate, and supervise local home-
owners. To prepare them for this assign-
ment, SSP provided hands-on leadership
training with more than 1,000 village
women appointed by the mahila mandals.
(Larger teams of women were created to
support the 300 women officially named
by the government.) Women were taught
the basic construction techniques used
for adapting and strengthening tradition-
al village houses and learned how this
type of construction would protect resi-
dents from future tremors. The informa-
tion assistants and women's groups took
their responsibilities to homeowners and
community groups seriously and worked
to ensure that people knew how to access
and use their entitlements and under-
stood and were able to supervise the use
of earthquake-safe features in construc-
tion and make use of appropriate tech-
nology and local resources. They worked,
as well, to involve women in planning
and designing their houses and interact-
ed with government agencies on behalf
of their communities.

il,,,.,.-,,. were initially ridiculed.
'Oh, you have now become an engi-
neer,' [they would say]."
-Suman, samvad sahayak in Usturi


To accomplish these goals, the wom-
en's collectives organized themselves
into teams to map and survey households
in their villages. Visiting and interview-
ing neighboring homeowners, 1." i 11l.
women, gave them a clear picture of sit-
uations in the villages and of the needs of
their constituents. (See Box 2.)

As the women began to assume i. i.
leadership positions, the women's groups
faced dual and persistent !i.ill, i :, both
to empower themselves and to build con-
sensus among ili ly residents and col-
laborating officials. For example, a num-
ber of women appointed as samvad sa-
hayaks traveled to the first orientation

Box 2

Women and Participatory Mapping:
A First Step Toward Planning Settlements

Participatory mapping is a useful and
enjoyable exercise to bring women into a
discussion of the concerns they have about
their settlements and basic services. While
drawing the map and discussing problems,
women have a chance to take a focused
look at their community. Mapping begins
by drawing the most familiar elements-
the main road, houses, the school, the tem-
ple, and the shops. Some women become
aware for the first time where their settle-
ments are in relation to where the market
is, where the water resources are, whether
there are any vacant lots or houses, who

lives where, and who obtained what from
the government. It prompts them to talk
about the condition of the community facil-
ities, the power structure of the communi-
ty, and how resources are allocated.
Once all the information has been col-
lected and mapped, the next step is to dis-
cuss women's priorities and organize a plan
of action. One benefit of the mapping exer-
cise is to prepare women to read technical
maps and plans. As valuable sources of
data and visual support, the maps help
women in their negotiations with govern-
ment officials and technical staff.

i ,, '
'W' ~ ,

~ c3i,i- 1 .

'ht A., -
'fs ^ (1

?^~S ^ '",

JO i ~

t i
-a 1

- i-aT
c/'\.; i i

i '* I


S.; J


-.-- 4 *
"'J ~ I ffl L

n' s; al a7
.. / .

-:-:-: ti, aL ,, -. ,' '



")/J' ~* !',:i;ii; iri~i;i~;L %iininiSl.liY`.Y



meeting accompanied by male members
of their families, explaining that this
made them feel more secure. Yet some
men-family members and village lead-
ers-hindered rather than helped women
assume their new public roles, ex-
pressing shock that "the government
could actually offer jobs to women."
Engineers and bankers often withheld
information from the leaders or simply
turned them away, and masons common-
ly thwarted women's efforts to supervise
their work.
These realities required SSP to make
investments in a range of simple strate-
gies to help women counter social hos-
tility and promote public responsiveness
to the urgency of repairing local houses.
Women organized themselves to:
work in a team, never alone;
speak with everyone in the village,
regardless of caste, age, or gender
to publicly foster an open, inclusive,
support local village assemblies (gram
sablas) to function as informed, pro-
active, problem-solving bodies; and

speak frankly and directly about
problems (such as shortages, cor-
ruption, and lack of information).

The groups held informal meetings in
village lanes to bring women (especially
those from poor and lower-caste fami-
lies) out of their homes to discuss their
concerns about the R&S process. They
also used biweekly village council meet-
ings and assemblies to share information
about aid to homeowners and program
progress and to register how water and
transportation shortages and similar
problems were blocking house repairs.
When confronting hostility or corruption,
teams of women would approach house-
holds or officials and speak directly, no
matter how high up in the hierarchy the
problem occurred. Women from Usturi,

for example, went directly to top district
officials to complain about a junior engi-
neer who was taking bribes and to insist
that his lower-level colleagues were fully
supporting his behavior.
As women's intention to improve the
situation became clear and officials were
forced to act, resistance lessened, and
cooperation grew. Even masons and engi-
neers became open to adapting the de-
sign of houses to include features that
women householders considered priori-
ties, including, bathrooms, semi-open
space between living room and bathroom,
chimneys, strong shelves and containers
for grain storage, and corners for reli-
gious offerings. Gradually, the repaired
houses began to incorporate these practi-
cal elements as well as the traditional
welcome symbols valued by the commu-
nity. As villagers experienced being en-
gaged as homeowners and partners (ra-
ther than as victims or beneficiaries of
aid), trust and participation grew. They
became more active, donating labor, buy-
ing materials with their own funds, and
advancing payment to hire masons and
laborers. The women's groups up-scaled
these initiatives by promoting continuous
cooperation among homeowners for pur-
chasing and transporting materials in
bulk and pooling their labor.
As this level of participation and part-
nership increased, Swayam Shikshan
Prayog realized that additional staff and
technical support were needed to help
women multiply their gains and expand
their involvement. With a team of engi-
neers and expert masons, SSP established
"leading villages" to demonstrate and im-
plement the safest, most user-friendly
construction methods. Mahila mandal
members as well as local masons received
training in earthquake-safe techniques
and how to combine these with the
design features that local women had re-
quested. Within a village, the samvad
sahayaks held regular meetings with


homeowners, offering technical advice on
how to choose and purchase ijin.l !ii;
materials collectively, design a house, and
implement new construction teclmiquies.
These i, i -, :ii. ,,; ." proved to be
an effective means for connecting wom-
en's groups across communities as teams
of leaders routinely journeyed back and
forth to learn firsthand how to apply new
building processes at home. Exposure to
one village's success energized others.
Soon, groups of homeowners began to
build houses .liI .. i I, sharing costs and
designs and i. ,Ii 1 dealing with the engi-
neers and supervision of masons and other
laborers. As people found self-help solu-
tions to the shortage of masons, water, and
cash, their problem-solving I ilt im-
proved. They began to :, I. materials
from their traditional houses-doors, win-
dow frames, stones, bamboo, and sheets of
tin. hi several' il ii women's groups set
up committees for accessing water, pur-

chasing materials, supervising construe-
tion, and managing cash flow (including
handling the documentation required to
expedite government payments).

Interacting with village, block,
and district governments

Prior to the earthquake, women were not
regularly included in local council meet-
ings (nor did these meetings take place
regularly). To keep the repair process on
track. however, women's groups orga-
nized community women to participate
in village assemblies and prepared them
to describe the problems of their house-
holds to local leaders (gram panchayat
members) so that the leaders would be
forced to respond with ,.1i1 11i e solu-
tions and action. In several ll ,1,'
where local governments previously had
not conducted ill ,' assemblies,
women's groups pressured local leaders

dim-, 4"-

P *

to do so. Women used these assemblies
as public platforms for demanding
changes in procedures and government
accountability, and for pressuring influ-
ential local men, including bankers, to
support them.
Early in the reconstruction process,
women's groups had begun to meet with
senior district government officials (the
district is an administrative unit in charge
of dozens of villages) to report formally
on village problems and decisions. Over
time, they persuaded block and district
officials to attend village assemblies reg-
ularly in order to share information and
make decisions together with affected
The dramatic increase in women's
interaction with engineers and govern-
ment officials and their participation in
village assemblies and meetings pro-
duced many benefits. Women helped to
expose and reduce local corruption and
to promote greater public disclosure of
information and investments. They set
an example by publicly displaying prog-
ress charts, reviewing the goals and out-
comes of meetings, and convening pub-
lic dialogues between bureaucrats and
affected homeowners. The collaborations
women promoted also saved money, ad-
vanced public safety, and produced re-
stored houses that included features
that reduced women's domestic work
and improved living conditions.

Since the women took the initiative to
engage themselves, the government
started understanding the problems
better This engagement and experi-
ence helped us gain confidence.
-Rukmini Koli, former samvad saha-
yah and former headwoman of Rajuri in

As local women gained a reputation as
resource providers and problem-solvers,
social relations also changed. Working
together across caste lines became more

acceptable, and traditional discrimination
was reduced. Officials' became responsive
and proactive in addressing problems and
complaints, and they trusted women's in-
formation. Community support for wom-
en's greater participation, both within and
outside of the family, helped strengthen
women's political identity. Within two
years, women stood for local panchayat
elections, with the support of their groups,
to advance the community development
they had started.

Building and managing public

As the R&S program wound down in
Latur and Osmanabad districts, the local
women's groups and SSP recognized the
need to take practical steps to ensure
that women stayed active in public life.
In conversations between SSP and the
groups, the women outlined their desire
to secure independent public centers
that they could manage and control.
They envisioned these as permanent
"public homes" that women's groups
from five to nine nearby villages could
share and operate as information, train-
ing, and resource centers. They knew
that if they had their own space, they
would not have to negotiate with men
for access to public meeting spaces or
confine their activities to their homes.
These newly evolved public women's
information centers, known as mahila
mahiti kendras (MMK), required group
ingenuity to start and quickly multiplied
across the two districts by the same
learning-by-doing-and-seeing methods
that SSP had fostered in the past. Box 3
summarizes some of the steps the group
in Usturi took to build their MMK.
As women's demand for information
centers grew, SSP arrived at a formula
by which local women's groups were ex-
pected to identify and negotiate for the
necessary land, provide the labor and


Box 3

Usturi Village Women Construct Their Mahiti
Kendra (Women's Communication Center)

In Usturi village, the women's group began
by surveying the vacant or unused avail-
able land in the area. They approached the
vice-sarpanch (village headman) to ask if
the local government could contribute
land, only to be offered plots that were
either too small, unsafe, or in marshy
areas. Their survey had revealed a large,
unused piece of land adjacent to a temple.
The plot included an existing structure
that could provide sufficient building
materials for construction of their center.
The women contacted the owner, a
religious figure living in Mumbai, and he
agreed to donate his plot for the center if
they would leave him a room to worship in
whenever he visited the area. The women
agreed and consulted SSP, people in the
* ii I- and the government land official to
start the legal procedures for taking title
to the plot. In a short time, they had
signed the necessary papers.
To prepare for construction, the
women negotiated agreements with neigh-
boring families and the temple authority to
share ..11..i01. L walls and to gain rights of

access. Once the Usturi women had their
title in hand, several of their leaders trav-
eled to Pune to visit a site managed by a
women's federation and learn how to make
soil cement blocks and concrete beams.
Eager to construct the building them-
selves, the Usturi women asked SSP for
masonry training on their site. The train-
ing was organized to strengthen connec-
tions across the women's groups. In .i!, 80
group members from nine surrounding vil-
lages participated.
To build local support, the Usturi
women invited local masons, carpenters,
and blacksmiths to take part. The women
explained to everyone that construction
would be .I!!ll. il .l. only if many people
helped out, creating space for men and
women to participate. While some women
gained construction ill others helped
by carrying materials, clearing the site or
mixing mortar. Four women supervised
the site in daily shifts, and the women's
group developed a simple method for
keeping a record of everyone's contribu-
tion (SSP Publications ,'II1' ').

some of the materials, and raise funds
locally. In turn, SSP would match a part
of the funds collected for construction
and provide training in construction
In the years since the Maharashtran
earthquake rehabilitation program offi-
, i.ili came to a close, the women's
groups involved have sustained a high
degree of activism in local development
projects and in local governance. In Bel-
wadi, where poor families were frequent-
ly keeping their children, particularly
girls, out of school, the savings and cred-
it groups began supporting an education

campaign that provided girls with loans
for bus fare, books, and school uniforms.
By the end of the campaign, all of the
girls in the village were attending school.
Fl', women's group in Kajala ill I,
collaborates with local council members
on community sanitation and other de-
velopment projects. Throughout the nar-
row ill i- signs with slogans remind
residents to keep the village clean. A
common washing area has been estab-
lished, as has a garden of medicinal
herbs. Residents claim that cleaning up
the village resulted in a significant re-
duction in the incidence of malaria.

i, ..n.: 22, 2005 17

Creating Spaces for
Women in Relief, Recovery,
and Reconstruction
Efforts in Turkey:
The Foundation for the
Support of Women's
Work (KEDV)

The Marmara Earthquake
Turkey is at high risk for earthquakes,
which account for the majority of dam-
age to the country caused by natural dis-
asters. A destructive earthquake occurs
about every one and a half years; more
than 90 percent of the country's total
surface area is at seismic risk. In fact,
more than half of Turkey's land area and
population are first- and second-degree
risk zones.4
Two earthquakes in the Marmara Re-
gion, occurring on 17 August and 12 No-
vember 1999, were the strongest ever ex-
perienced in Turkey, with fatality rates
five times greater than those of previous
quakes. Rated at 7.4 and 7.2 on the seismic
scale, they occurred in the most densely
urbanized and industrialized region of the
country where 23 percent of the coun-
try's population and 47 percent of Tur-
key's gross national product were con-
centrated and affected. According to offi-
cial figures, more than 18,000 people
died in the two quakes and about 48,900
were injured. About 100,000 housing
units were destroyed; more than 250,000
units received serious to moderate dam-
age. Estimates of economic damage
ranged from US$5 to 6.5 billion.
Located adjacent to the Istanbul Met-
ropolitan Area, the Marmara region had
a thriving and diverse economy. Some
cities like Izmit were highly industrial-
ized; Adapazari and Duzce were wealthy
agricultural provinces with flourishing
trade. A major navy base was situated in

Golcuk; a middle-class summer resort was
nearby. The majority of new migrants to
the area had fled from civil strife and eco-
nomic problems in the Kurdish region in
Southeast Turkey. As a result, the earth-
quake disrupted the lives of people with
highly diverse social, economic, and cul-
tural backgrounds, resources, and needs.

The Turkish Government's
Response and Recovery
In the few hours that followed the first
earthquake on August 17, volunteers
and donations (food, clothing, house-
hold goods, medicine, and other necessi-
ties) started to flow into the area. As one
observer put it, "As blood gushes to an
open wound, volunteers flowed to the
area. Anyone who could use a shovel or
dress a wound, rushed to the area from
all parts of the country" (Coskun 2001).
Even if uncoordinated and inexperi-
enced, volunteers and local people per-
formed most of the immediate rescue
work. Government and military forces
and international rescue teams arrived
72 hours later. By that time, local people
and volunteers had accounted for most
of the 10,000 people that were pulled
out of the rubble; professional teams
rescued only about 500 more.
Despite a second earthquake that dev-
astated the region within 86 days of the
first one, the government-supported
by an outpouring of international assis-
tance from various governments and aid
agencies-was able to rebuild the basic
infrastructure and provide temporary
accommodation for about 800,000 in 121
tent cities. Within four to nine months,
about 42,000 prefabricated temporary
housing units were completed; NGOs
and the private sector contributed one-
fourth of the total number of units.

4 The figures cited in this section are from the UN Habitat+5 draft report for Turkey (2000).


Although the speed with which the
prefabricated houses were constructed
was admirable, the units were designed
and built without input from local resi-
dents, women's groups, or NGOs, so that
the size, quality, and location of the tem-
porary housing proved controversial. No
attention was paid to the livelihood needs
of the poor, particularly to those of wom-
en, so that many families refused to
leave their tents because leaving would
cause them to lose their food aid and they
would have to move far from their
sources of income. Rent Jl.-,.i, .. were
offered to households that chose to find
their own living quarters, but this offer
led to rent inflation and evictions, thus
driving more poor f niiili to seek shelter
in the temporary housing settlements.
Even though the ii i,1 ii. of small
businesses were I. I I .1 and layoffs of
workers continued to contribute to wide-
spread unemployment in the area, the
reconstruction program ignored people's
livelihood needs and replacement infra-
structure for many businesses (four
-. ii,-; after the earthquake, the 14,500
destroyed businesses were offered only
temporary accommodation). The govern-
ment chose to focus on brick-and-mortar
solutions and use recovery aid to con-
struct large-scale permanent housing.
Furthermore, the government's housing
program targeted only homeowners, so
at least as many households did not
qualify for housing support from the
government because they were tenants
or had lived in dwellings without clear
legal tenure.
Ulii ii i.' a large proportion of this
latter group were stranded in temporary
housing settlements that were sched-
uled to be evacuated and shut down
immediately after completion of govern-
ment-sponsored housing projects. Be-
cause thousands of households, espe-
cially those of the poorest families, faced
serious shelter problems as a result of
soaring rents and unreliable repairs,

some 1.' f l, i .i-, I housing settlements
(more than 13,000 units) had to be
maintained after almost all of the 4' i I,")
new units were completed and ,ili.. Ii, ,1
to homeowners by the end of JII .
The majority of the homeowners who
applied for government assistance (96
percent) were qualified to receive it.
Many families with alternative options
(living with relatives, having savings, or
owning a home in another province)
took the government's housing subsidy
and left the area, but the majority of dis-
placed people stayed and sought shelter.
First, they lived in tent cities and later in
the temporary prefabricated housing set-
tlements. Those whose houses were only
moderately damaged received a lump-
sum payment to use for repairs. Those
whose housing was destroyed could
choose either to receive I ,i1r for recon-
struction or apply the credit toward new
permanent housing built by the govern-
ment. This policy meant different things
to different people. For some homeown-
ers, it was an opportunity to improve the
quality of their li..ii in- for others, it
was a chance to recover some portion of
their life savings. Yet this money was a
loan that had to be paid back over time,
and for some, especially for retired peo-
ple, the government housing iL ,' ,i ,ii
plan was burdensome.
On 1 June 2000, the Ministry of Public
Works and Housing began construction
of 4-11,11 ,i housing units financed by the
World Bank and European Council De-
velopment Bank credits, by the Ministry,
and by private donations. Again, the
public did not have the opportunity to
participate in decisions about the loca-
tion, design, or construction of these
settlements, nor about the terms of the
repayment scheme. The Ministry con-
ducted a small sample survey to deter-
mine the I- of housing to be pro-
duced, and a few token public meetings
were held in connection with the units
to be built with World Bank credits, but

these efforts were largely public rela-
tions strategies to gain support for pre-
determined plans. As in the case of the
temporary shelters, site selection was
controversial; many of the new settle-
ments were to be located on prime agri-
cultural land and far from city centers. A
public outcry arose concerning the selec-
tion of developers for government-spon-
sored construction of permanent hous-
ing. Some of the developers awarded these
lucrative contracts simultaneously were
being sued for malpractice and for caus-
ing loss of life.

Women Organize Relief in
the Tent Cities
The government's initial response after
the Marmara earthquake was to house
those displaced from their homes in tent
cities. Poor women whose homes had
been destroyed circulated, searching for
ways to ensure the safety and survival of
their families. They were looking for food,
collecting usable items, talking to the
press, and caring for their families and
the injured. Men, in contrast, seemed to
be in shock from having lost their jobs,
their life savings, and their health, and
were looking for work. Some wandered
off to escape the responsibilities brought
by the disaster. In tent cities, women at-
tended community meetings and inter-
acted frequently with settlement admin-
istrators and local government represen-
tatives to obtain information and access
to aid. They tried to raise money for
their families, by selling handicrafts or
by preparing and selling food (illegally)
from their tents.
Members of Kadin Emegini Degerlen-
dirme Vakfi (KEDV) became involved in
disaster-relief and recovery efforts at the
time of the earthquake, working as vol-
unteers. (See Box 4 for a brief descrip-
tion of KEDVs organization and activi-
ties.) First, the staff helped organize a
group of young volunteers to provide
emergency aid, collaborating with the

union of local shipyard owners. They
used land, sea, and airways to respond to
requests for help coming from devastat-
ed towns. As they observed the condi-
tions in the area at first hand, KEDV
stopped distributing food and supplies
within the first few weeks to concentrate
on what it could do most effectively-
provide safe and secure community
spaces for women and children. The vol-
unteers were quick to observe that
women could play a key role as agents in
the relief and recovery process, but to
do so they would need a place to come
together, share information, and offer
mutual support. Life had to return to nor-
mal as quickly as possible so that people
would not become disaster victims
dependent on outside aid. People had to
rebuild their own lives, even if they
received support from outside sources.
As SSP had learned, KEDV realized that
the disaster, as devastating as it was,
could be turned into an opportunity for
development and social change.
The first step KEDV took was to meet
with local women, NGOs, and govern-
ment officials to determine the most
appropriate sites for new centers for
women and children in tent cities. KEDV
sought to identify tent campsites that
could accommodate the largest number
of poor families, with cooperative camp
administrators, and sites that appeared
as if they could be sustained for the
longest periods of time. The first centers
were set up in Camlitepe, Cephanelik
(Izmit province), Gozlementepe (Golcuk
province), and Emirdag (Adapazari
province). Because of KEDV's ongoing
partnership with the Social Services and
Child Protection Administration (Sosyal
Hizmet ve Qocuk Esirgeme Kurumu-
SHQEK) and a protocol signed with its
regional administration, the organization
already had a high degree of legitimacy,
an advantage that helped to quicken the
bureaucratic procedures for obtaining
access to space.


Kadin Emegini D .-ll. ii!i,- Vakfi
(KEDV) was established in 1986 by a small
group of Istanbul-based professional women
with grassroots backgrounds. Its mission
was to support poor women so that they
could organize to respond to basic needs
and to develop the capacities to improve
their own lives and communities. KEDV
began by working with poor women from
settlements around Istanbul who had
expressed the need for community-based
child-care services to keep their children
safe while they worked. KEDV helped these
women organize and negotiate with local
municipalities for public space where par-
ents could operate child-care centers with
adjacent women's rooms that offer a range
of capacity-building programs. In addition
to providing an essential service to working
women, the child-care centers also offered a
socially legitimate reason for women to
leave their homes to meet with their peers,
thereby reducing their isolation.

Four new tents were bought to be
used as women's centers, and SHQEK
provided additional tents for children's
use, mobile toilets, and shipping contain-
ers that could be used for storage as well
as for office and dormitory space for
KEDV and SHQEK staff. Several private
companies donated storage containers
that could be converted into rooms for
groups of children as well as furnishings
for these facilities. Thus, within two
weeks, the first four centers for women
and children had been set up in the
makeshift world of tent cities.
Within days, local women appropriat-
ed the tents as a public living rooms and
workspaces and organized their own
activities. They cooked, received guests,
made new friends, and held small sup-

KEDV's participatory approach, reliance
on local resources, and success in develop-
ing strategic partnerships with both the pri-
vate sector and government agencies was
unique among the newly emerging NGOs in
Turkey. It formed successful partnerships,
including one with the Social Services and
Child Protection Administration (SHQEK),
in order to gain access to resources and also
to gain visibility and recognition for its work
with poor women. The primarily source of
KEDV's outside funding ii i .-ii- (and to the
present) was the Bernard Van Leer Foun-
dation in the Netherlands. With headquar-
ters in Istanbul, KEDV now works as a re-
source partner with 17 centers for women
and children and with 20 women's savings
and credit groups in low-income neighbor-
hoods of Istanbul, in ( 1 ll., l iff. 1
areas in the Marmara region, and in south-
eastern Turkey. It maintains a staff of 25 to
35 people, including women who work in
the local centers.

port-group sessions. Soon the tents were
housing several income-earning schemes
(described below). At the centers, the
women discussed the earthquake, the
relief programs, and events around the
region. They organized exchange or
marketing visits to Istanbul and started
making plans for the future.
Generating income to support their
families was a priority for most of the
women. In late i: i, KEDV was able to
negotiate a contract with the Ministry of
Tourism to produce toys at the centers.
According to the protocol, 300 women
produced 750 dolls each week; KEDV
coordinated the production activities,
and the ministry purchased and market-
ed the dolls. Over a five-month period,
the 300 women who participated in the

. : 2005 21

Box 4

Kadin Emegini DegerlendirmeVakfi
(KEDV-The Foundation for the Support of
Women's Work): Partnering To Establish Women
and Children Centers that Women Control

project produced more than 10,000 dolls
and shared earnings of approximately
US$11,000. Beyond producing much-
needed income, this project introduced
most of the women to the collective pro-
duction process. At the same time, it
served as a practical way for many of the
women to overcome the trauma result-
ing from the disruption of their lives. As
one woman remarked, "Every day, I had
to get up, come to the tent, and be to-
gether with others. It helped me forget
about my troubles." Others who did not
participate in the doll project also came
by to watch the work and chat. Ultimat-
ely, the collective process became a
major attraction at the centers and pro-
vided women with an opportunity to get
to know each other better and to plan
future collective initiatives.
In less-damaged areas, people began
to complete repairs on their homes and
leave the tent cities. Some tent cities
were closed down suddenly. For in-
stance, a month after they opened, two
of the centers (in Camlitepe and Gozle-
mentepe) were ordered to move to

another tent city. In areas like Camlitepe
and Guney, many families decided to
stay near their damaged homes to pro-
tect their property, even if they had to
live in makeshift tents. Some women
were concerned that these changes
could cause them to lose access to their
centers. They petitioned their munici-
palities to set up centers with support
from the KEDV (see Box 5).

We'll do anything to keep the center
here. Children learn good values at
child care and we have a place of
our own. We can raise the money
among ourselves. This is public
land; they should just give us space.
-A mother from Camlitepe tent city,
September 1999

In the meantime, KEDV was able to
secure funding from NOVIB (Oxfam,
Netherlands) and the American Jewish
World Service to set up eight centers for
women and children in the temporary
housing settlements under construction.
Their construction required another
round of meetings with officials and sev-
eral site visits to identify settlements with
the largest number of poor families, those
who would stay in the area the longest,
and, preferably, those who were located
in close proximity to the existing centers.
Because at this point the authorities were
familiar with the work of KEDV, securing
space was easier, and construction of
the centers began in some of the largest
settlements in the three provinces.5

Creating Women and Children
Centers in Temporary
Housing Settlements
The move from tent cities to prefabricat-
ed temporary settlements marked the

5 In Kocaeli, the five settlements where the centers were built accommodated more than half (56 percent) of
all residents in temporary housing in the province. In Adapazari, the two settlements accounted for more than
a third, and the settlement in Duzce accounted for 18 percent of the population lodged in temporary housing.
In all but one settlement, households paying rent made up the majority (60 to 80 percent) of residents.


In Guney, KEDV joined the women in nego-
tiations with the municipality for continua-
tion of basic services (utilities and toilet
facilities) on this site. The women calculat-
ed the budget and fees needed to hire a pro-
fessional staff and divided the work among
themselves. KEDV supported their efforts
by organizing exchange visits to their center
for women and children in Istanbul, and by
training the women to manage the center
and assist the only professional childcare
worker employed at the site.
Soon, the Social Services Administration
(SHQEK) invited the women's group to
move from the shipping containers they had
been using into a new NGO-donated com-
munity building in the neighborhood. The
women agreed on the condition that they
would continue to be in charge of managing
the child-care center and women's room with
technical support from i:ii I Forty women
attended the first meeting organized in the

transition from the relief to the recovery
phase of the postdisaster intervention.
Because humanitarian relief efforts were
no longer needed, most of the local and
international NGOs began to leave the
earthquake area. The cooperative attitude
that had existed between the public and
nongovernmental organizations during
the relief phase eroded. Only those NGOs
with resources and a practical or long-
term mission continued to work in the
area during recovery and reconstruction.
The women who had moved into tem-
porary prefabricated housing settle-
ments in winter again found themselves
isolated. This was at least the second
time that many of these women had had
to move after they lost their homes.
Separated from their neighbors and
friends in tent cities who had helped
them, the women had to look for ways to
improve their situation. Based on their

new building and decided on the rules for
management of the new center. Within a few
months, however, tensions began to develop
between the women and SHQEK staff. The
building administrator, who believed that
ii .i1 !~ women should leave child care to
experts," tried to interfere in the manage-
ment of the center and to limit the mothers'
access to the building. Eventually, at the end
of the summer, SHQEK took over the com-
munity center, and the women's appeals to
the governor's office and 1i,, ,. ii ,iil for an
alternate space was rejected with the expla-
nation that sufficient child-care services
existed already in the district.
Ultimately, even though the new center
clearly demonstrated what women could
accomplish when they combined their
energy to reach a common goal, the fragili-
ty of their success in light of bureaucratic
priorities illustrates the importance of insti-
, ii i;- i!,I, women's gains and authority.

previous experience at the centers, a few
of these women took on formal roles as
block representatives, but most were left
to fend for themselves.
Living conditions in the overcrowded,
hastily built prefabricated housing units
were better than in the tent cities, but
were still difficult. The settlements suf-
fered from frequent infrastructure prob-
lems and lacked basic social services, and
the barrack-style layout of buildings pro-
vided no informal gathering spaces for
women. Along with widespread unem-
ployment, social problems (including
drinking and domestic violence) began to
escalate. Tension grew, first, among home-
owners who qualified for government
housing credits and renters and unregis-
tered tenants who did not, and second
between residents and the settlement
administrations (as a result of constant
infrastructure problems, favoritism in the

Box 5

A Struggle for Control: The Guney
Neighborhood Experience

allocation of larger units, and the like).
Because safe and affordable housing
options were virtually unavailable else-
where, residents who were not eligible for
housing credits began to understand that
living in these prefabricated dwellings
might not be a temporary situation.
Within this context, the centers for
women and children became the only
source of community information and
services in the settlements. As the initial
shock of the disaster wore off under the
hard living conditions of the temporary
settlements, the women began to focus
on their long-term economic and hous-
ing needs. Employment and income-gen-
eration became a critical concern. As the
doll-making project ended, KEDV was
able to involve some groups of women in
the production of toys and educational
materials, while other groups developed
their own marketable products (such as
household items and candles). The
women organized teams to sell their pro-
ducts to local merchants, secured down-
town stores from municipalities, and
succeeded in obtaining stalls at two
national chain department stores. Others

explored different options. With funding
and technical assistance from the Cana-
dian International Development Agency
(CIDA) and the Vancouver-based Inter-
national Center for Sustainable Cities
(ICSC), several women learned to make
recycled paper, while others took up the
nontraditional skill of carpentry. Two of
the centers (Dernekkiri in Adapazari and
Uzunciftlik in Izmit) set up their own
woodworking workshops where the
women made not only wooden toys but
also screens for windows and doors,
which were in great demand in the set-
tlements. They also explored ways to
partner with local institutions to enhance
their skills. For example, while they
were discussing the difficulty of finding
plumbers and electricians who would
come to their settlements, women at
some of the centers decided to organize
workshops for training interested wom-
en as plumbers and electricians.
Another major concern that preoccu-
pied women was earthquake-safe hous-
ing. A summer visit from SSP members
from India helped women envision what
they could accomplish. By late summer,
with KEDV staff, they organized weekly
community meetings on housing issues,
attended by hundreds of women, and
even a few men. At each center, a core
group of determined women began to
meet regularly to discuss strategy and
take action. They selected two women
as community-outreach workers to orga-
nize and facilitate meetings, take notes,
disseminate information, and arrange for
meetings with local authorities. The groups
also began going door to door to collect
information on the status of fellow resi-
dents in terms of their housing subsi-
dies, livelihood concerns, and settle-
ment-related problems. The women
marked facilities and resources on set-
tlement maps and noted other in-
formation they gathered (locations of
vacant units, tenant households, house-


holds with young children and/or dis-
abled persons, and so forth). Collecting
and owning this information, which the
government did not have, provided the
women with an asset they could use in
negotiations with the government and
made them feel empowered.
Three women from each center at-
tended biweekly regional coordination
meetings with KEDV staff to discuss
their progress, findings, obstacles,
strategies, and next steps, and where
they identified local experts (lawyers,
engineers, and developers) to invite to
the centers to explain basic rules for
safety in construction and issues related
to 1 -!1ill -. for government programs.
They strategized about the order in
which to visit the local agencies and
authorities and prepared questions to
ask that they divided up among them-
selves so that everyone would have a
chance to talk during the meeting. They
organized group visits to local agencies
and to the construction sites of the new
permanent housing being built by the
Ministry of Construction and Resettle-
ment. At one center they discovered
construction errors in some new perma-
nent housing blocks in their i- I i 1r This
contributed to their concern that some of
the new housing developers were the
same ones who had built the ..Iii i.
that collapsed during the earthquake,
calling into question how the govern-
ment was selecting contractors.
The women grew i. :. i-il-I frus-
trated because on the one hand, they
attended World Bank meetings where
they received fragmented information
and on the other hand, no public agency
was prepared to take responsibility for
establishing safe building and repair
standards. Over time, the women began
developing their own sense of ,.. 1 .-lilii.
and standards for evaluating the govern-
ment's accountability. They warned their
peers from other centers to be vigilant

and to keep good records. 11. ii.- 1,. ,
because the government program did
not address their housing needs, groups
of tenant women began exploring and
developing their own housing coopera-
tives linked to savings groups.

Ai.. the first few meetings, we real
ized that the local authorities did not
have clear information about the gov-
eranment programs, either They would
just repeat awht they an(d we already
knew or would say things to make
things look rosy. So we started taking
notes in the meetings and asked them
to and sign the notes. Now
t. think twice before making empty
-Nehir from Uzunciftlik, November 2000

As women experienced the benefits of
acting together as a I; .,', the centers
reached out to collaborate more with
each other. Women from different centers
began to go to meetings with local author-
ities together. They exchanged the names
and numbers of experts and officials who
were helpful, and groups farther along in
the process began to help the others, par-
ticipating in their weekly meetings, and
sharing information, experiences, and
strategies. At the same time, attitudes
were beginning to change within local
households. As a woman from Yesilova
remarked, ,1 husband used to complain
that I spent too much time at the center.
Now he is used to it and asks why I am
home, even during the weekends."
Group discussions of shared concerns
encouraged the women to push so that
their priorities related to housing, social
services, and livelihoods would appear
on the local agenda. Recognizing that
this would be a long-term process, the
importance of staying together and sus-
taining their centers became clear. They
began to the take the necessary steps to
establish a formal i.l.-i~il- as autono-
mous women's groups so that they could
continue their negotiations with authori-

ties and access resources on their own.
With support from legal experts and
friends, the women explored different
organizational formats and decided on
cooperatives as the most suitable struc-
ture for their needs and purposes. Mean-
while, a six-year protocol signed be-
tween KEDV and the Social Services and
Child Protection Administration in 2001
provided more favorable conditions for
sustaining the centers.6 By early 2003,
six of the eight centers for women and
children were consolidated as autono-
mous service-production cooperatives.
Also by 2003, four housing coopera-
tives were established by about 200
women from the three provinces, who
began looking for funding and negotiating
with the authorities for allocation of land
for their cooperatives. This effort has
required vigilance. For example, during
their visits to public agencies, the women
learned that the Ministry of Public Works
and Housing was considering auctioning
off land in temporary housing settle-
ments to cooperatives that had been set
up by tenant groups for building apart-
ments. Even though site selection would
be based on each settlement's tenure
composition, the women had already
gathered this information and could sup-
ply it to the Ministry. One outcome of this
process was a promise from the Regional
Coordinator of the Ministry of Public
Works to give the women's cooperatives
priority in land allocation.

What the Women
Since the earthquake in September 1999,
more than 10,000 women have been in-
volved in the activities of the centers for
women and children. While many local

and international agencies were having a
hard time finding local groups to take
over the management of the service cen-
ters they had built, the grassroots wom-
en's groups organized around the centers
took control of their situation. They
formed savings and credit groups and ini-
tiated partnerships with local agencies to
ensure the financial sustainability of their
centers. Tenants organized around hous-
ing cooperatives to find a solution to their
housing needs. Moreover, small groups of
leaders participated in regional and inter-
national peer exchanges in Bulgaria,
India, and Southeast Turkey, and most
recently in Bam, Iran. These meetings
gave them confidence to act as grass-
roots experts on microcredit schemes,
housing processes, information gather-
ing, and on the establishment and opera-
tion of centers for women and children.

Transferring Skills and
Experience: Marathwadi
Women's Groups
Support Earthquake-
Struck Gujarati Women
in Taking Action

Women's groups that participate in emer-
gency relief, resettlement, and recon-
struction efforts following a natural disas-
ter acquire significant knowledge and ex-
pertise that can greatly benefit communi-
ties that subsequently experience similar
crises. When mechanisms are established
for promoting the transfer of this knowl-
edge from community to community, poor
women are enabled to come out of their
homes and form groups to assess their sit-
uation, organize, and participate in the
range of decisions and programs that will

6 The protocol allowed grassroots women's groups, beyond the emergency conditions of the disaster region,
to set up and govern their own community child-care centers without having to hire an expert administra-
tor. Therefore, this protocol was also an important step toward mainstreaming the establishment of com-
munity-run child-care centers throughout Turkey that would be monitored and assessed by KEDV and
SHQEK to develop proposals for legislation to disseminate the model.


shape their immediate and long-term
futures. When disasters strike, the oppor-
tunities to decrease women's marginaliza-
tion arise early on, when norms of social
control and male-dominated fI ,i ii, struc-
tures are temporarily disrupted and weak-
ened by the chaos that ensues. If affected
women can meet and benefit from the
experiences of other women who have
managed to deal ii... iifi, with disas-
ter-related issues, much valuable time can
be saved and mistakes avoided. The after-
math of the earthquake in Gujarat in 2001
is one example where local women bene-
fited from the help of their peers from
Maharashtra and from the experiences of
the Turkish women from the Marmara
A powerful earthquake, with an epi-
center near Bhuj, struck the Indian state
of Gujarat in late January 2001, and
nearly a ,iilli. I families were left home-
less. The Kutch region, a large part of
which lies in the highest seismic hazard
zone in India, was the hardest hit-
accounting for 90 percent of all deaths
and almost an equal share of all
destroyed assets. The Kutch region had
"high levels of social and economic vul-

nerability and fi ,-ilii even in 'i,.IIli II
times" (Martin 2003:14)

With higher povertlU and lower social
indicators than in the rest of Gigjarat,
people's capacity to absorb and recov-
er from the losses caused by liazard
events is limited. The main sources of
livelihood, agriculture, salt mining,
;,. ,i and trade have been seri-
ously .,ii '. ; by the compound ef-
fects of earthquake and drought ....
For a con immunity trying to cope with
a drought since 1999, the earthquake
.. .tested their resilience. While los-
ing their habitat, '*: .... : and
Joamily support, poor rural women
also lost the childcare, community,
education, and health, i ,.; ..
Many anganwadi centers (for wonm-
en and child .. ",. *) providing ...
ernment assistance completely col-
lapsed, leaving an estimated 1.5
million auonen and children iwith-
otii nutrition support and health
services, as a UN team noted. (',1 ii ,
,-, ,i 0)

A tardy government response re-
quired survivors to mobilize relief and
recovery efforts on their own, and a num-
ber of Gujarati women quickly sprang

.. 22, :,'' *

0- 1

into action, summoning doctors, pulling
children from the debris, and rescuing
animals. Nevertheless, their initiatives
were largely invisible.
Swayam Shikshan Prayog, collaborat-
ing with the Society for the Promotion of
Area Resource Centers (SPARC), offered
solidarity by soliciting corporate, interna-
tional, and relief agency monies to help
affected communities organize them-
selves. Pushed by the women's collec-
tives in Maharashtra, SSP traveled with
experienced leaders from these groups
and with their own team of engineers and
architects across the villages of Gujarat
to determine how their postdisaster ex-
perience could be useful. Within several
months, they were providing support to
community initiatives in more than 200

Gujarati villages in Jamnagar, Kutch, and
Rajkot districts in collaboration with sev-
eral NGOS and districts' administration.
SSP began its work by supporting
community-to-community exchanges
between women's group leaders from
Latur and Osmanabad savings and credit
federations (in Maharashtra) and af-
fected women in three Gujarati districts.
Focused on identifying and addressing
the urgent practical needs of survivors,
the exchanges enabled these experi-
enced leaders to help their neighbors
analyze their own situation and decide
upon effective actions that could be
taken. For example, they helped Gujarati
women map the degree of damage the
earthquake caused by asking: "What
losses did you suffer after the quake?
Was your house destroyed? How do you
get food? Has family employment contin-
ued or been disrupted? Do you have
money set aside or are you borrowing?
How have your children's health and
education been affected?"
Maharashtran women also shared sto-
ries of how they had coped and organized
themselves to improve their living and
working conditions. This sharing gave Gu-
jarati women, more confined by caste and
religious barriers than their visiting sis-
ters, a vision of how they could justify
participating in community recovery and
work together across social differences.
In a short time, the government, armed
with more than 300 million dollars from
the Asian Development and World Banks,
moved in to repair and strengthen more
than 700,000 houses, construct dwellings
for the homeless, and rebuild core infra-
structure (schools, village health clinics,
roads, and power grids). Stalled entitle-
ment applications, bribe taking, and faulty
repair and reconstruction processes re-
peated themselves in earthquake-devasta-

7 SSP partnered with local and outside NGOs, including Anandi, Hum, and Oxfam India, to build women's
capacities and create livelihood activities.


ted villages across Gujarat, replaying the
Maharashtran experience. When seasoned
grassroots leaders visited their ,ll -ii 2 -,
peers, '1, urged the women to deter-
mine who was taking bribes, where bot-
tlenecks existed in accessing entitle-
ments and repair materials, and to
decide how they would confront these
problems c-i -' I -. and sustain their
action. For example Sultana (of Osmana-
bad) asked Dill .ii,, of Jodia village:

Is it true that the engineer in
Bhimkatta .. ...' asks for bribes to
approve houses for the second
installment of funds?

Dilharba: Yes, the engineer asks for
bribes. I have been .. ,..: people that
if your homes are using the proper
earthquake safety guidelines, then
you should not gi'e the engineer
any money. I .... .'. ., '," discourage
them from giving bribes to anyone.

Have you complained to anyone
about the engineer who's asking br

Dilharba: No, we have not told any-
one yet.

Wi- You should bring this to the
attention of the Taluka District C,'
so that the corruption stops.

One year after the earthquake, wom-
en leaders from the Marathwadi (India)
and Marmara (Turkey) regions, coordi-
nated by SSP, met with Gujarati women
to help them evaluate whether the recov-
ery program was meeting their needs. At
a public meeting with local officials (see
photo), they listened as Gujarat women
described how the scarcity of water and
other development (dill, !.I -, in this
drought-prone, conservative region, were
interfering with the repair and recon-
struction process. One woman reported:

In my '"',,:. wae have received the
first ',." .. of funds to start the
construction of houses. But if you

don'l get water for construction, how
can you build your WeT get
water in our .'., .. for one hour
every three weeks. How can anyone
construct houses in such a situation?

Gauriben of Jamnagar district de-
scribed how her daughter spends most of
the day standing in a long line waiting for
water because of the shortages and de-
manded to know: "Why do I have to make
a choice between making my daughter
stand in a line for water or sending her to
school?" A third woman, Sheetal,
described how her group organized to
compel officials to respond to their
water shortage:

The women from Latur encouraged
us to go and talk with the '
and request that the lead person
come to olur .'.... to see conditions
for himself. [We did, and] at first he
got angry and refused to listen. We
told him we could hare him sus-
pended if he didn't listen. So he
calmed down rand agreed to visit.
Once he was there, he soaw how
severe the problem was, and he orga-
nized a meeting with the entire uil-
lage where we decided to build a
water think. Since his visit, we've
been getting a water tanker here
everyday, [and will continue to] until
our tank is built! (SSP Publications

~1 7 0

4iS~~ of



Adapting Empowerment
Strategies to Cultural and
Social Conditions

Despite their widespread poverty, the
Gujarat villages where SSP worked had
no active savings and credit groups. Ini-
tially, the Gujarati women resisted the
idea of forming such groups, claiming
they were uneducated and would not
know how to operate as a group or han-
dle money; some anticipated that men
would forbid them to participate.
However, after repeated visits, meetings,
and study tours to observe the savings
and credit groups in Latur and Osmana-
bad (where more than 15,000 women
were running more than 1,100 groups),
the Gujarati women agreed that they
could start the process of saving and
lending together (see Box 6).

For every step the Gujarati women
took out of their homes, their apprecia-
tion grew for how the Maharashtran
women had created tools to make their
groups a permanent part of public life
and development processes in their vil-
lages. From their numerous exchange
visits, they soon became curious about
the "whys" and howss" of building-
from repairing and strengthening their
homes to constructing the mahila mahiti
kendras. Indeed, SSP helped train Guja-
rat women in construction methods
once households were able to gain ac-
cess to their payments and the repair
and strengthening of houses were under-
way. Although women's restricted mobil-
ity shaped the ways in which they par-
ticipated, nevertheless, Gujarati women
used the information and training they
had received to become involved. Accor-

Box 6

Learning about Savings and Credit

In early October 2001, a study tour was
organized by ANANDI, a women's NGO, to
help women from the quake-affected area
learn about savings and credit groups. A
group of 25 women from the villages of
Jodia block, accompanied by a leader from
Latur, visited Rakodia, a remote village in
Maliya block lacking proper roads, electrici-
ty, and water. While there, they heard
Khaleedaben, the leader of the host savings
and credit group, describe the Rakodia
group and the benefits it was yielding:
Not only do we save money by circu-
lating low-interest loans but also we
have started making and selling
cement tanks with the money that we
have saved. The profits from the sales
go back to our savings group. So it
gives us both an income and great
As they met with the women and heard
how they had organized themselves and

learned to keep records and establish rules
for governing the group, Bhanuben, a visitor
from Utbeth Champer, began to see the
Even though SSP has had meetings
with us on the importance of forming
savings groups, I did not really
understand the concept clearly. I also
thought it would be impossible to
mobilize the women of my village to
do this. But after coming here today
and seeing what women in Rakodia
have achieved, I can see the impor-
tance of women coming together If
Khaleedaban and the women here can
do it, there is no reason why we can't
make such progress in my village.
By the end of the visit all the women on
the study tour were asking SSP if their col-
leagues from Latur and Osmanabad could
come and help them form groups in their
villages (SSP Publications 2002:10).


ling to Phuliben of l...lii.i or Vandh, in
Rapar Kutch,

c ,e (ari able to provide properly ,
guidance to the ma(sons a'/en our
homes are being bill ... I also help
to guide others in miY. conmurniiitt. If
my home is being butill right' now, I go
and ask other women w hose homes
will be built later to come anid help
inc,. Thicw w hen their homes are beiti
built, I go and help them. IJ this u'ay,
17,man7/ l'oir/ ha re been '
together to a'iork on ', .' "'.' homes.

Numerous village women worked in
construction: sifting sand, mixing ce-
ment, ensuring the right proportions of
sand and cement, and supervising the
masons to make sure that they were
incorporating earthquake-safe features in
the construction.
To establish mahiti kendras, women
organized the work into five committees.
Leaders in Khirsara village ,I' i.ll, .I
these committees at a meeting with
Jamnagar residents. Il. .- organized:
a water committee responsible for
ensuring that water is available for
constrtl. 1-11- 1 i i _;1 :both access
and transport to sites;

a purchasing committee responsible
for checking the prices and quality
of construction materials before
buying them;
a materials committee responsible for
keeping records of the materials con-
ing in and the amount used, and for
informing the purchasing committee
when more materials are needed;
an accounts committee responsible
for recording the amounts spent
.1 11 on construction, lii ill. track-
ing every expense from the day the
foundation is excavated to the day
the '- ll. are painted;

and a supervisory committee respon-
.il !1 for the overseeing construction,
which records when the masons start

and end work and all other daily con-
struction activities and ensures that
masons use appropriate, earthquake-
safe building techniques.

Participating women have been elo-
quent in expressing how these process-
es have helped them learn to plan, solve
problems, and negotiate and monitor
planning and construction. A iIn ,iii i ma-
hiti kendra in a i! :,- be it in Maha-
rashtra or in (Gjarat, symbolizes an im-
portant milestone in the learning process
of local women. These multipurpose cen-
ters house the activities of women's
groups front as many as 15 surrounding
villages and testify to the ability of wom-
en working collectively to acquire land;
to mobilize labor, materials, and monies;
and to build and manage new communi-
ty structures. Moreover, when women's
groups can establish their ownv building,
with their name on it, they acquire new
status in their village.


Claiming Opportunities With
Innovative Strategies
The case studies of the SSP and KEDV
experience highlight how postdisaster
situations can be opportunities to em-
power women at the grassroots level,
build more resilient communities, and
initiate .n- i ii, social change and de-
velopment. Ti1 also :ii1 i, i? how
NGOs can focus on facilitating and part-
nering to leverage resources and there-
by galvanize affected women's groups to
scale up and sustain their !I and
organization over the cycle of relief to
reconstruction. Although the Indian and
Turkish strategies were iiII. --iii they
jointly suggest key elements of effective
In India, SSP began by negotiating with
the government to secure the appoint-
ment of women as communication inter-

'.,',.: 22,2005 31

mediaries, placing them at the center of
reconstruction processes. The women's
groups underwent training to take on
this role: to motivate householders, build
technical capacity, demonstrate collec-
tive arrangements, provide feedback,
and monitor reconstruction. Over time,
women acquired the confidence and
skills to become community-develop-
ment intermediaries, monitoring basic
services, voicing women's priorities in
their communities, initiating local devel-
opment projects, and facilitating dia-
logues between their communities and
government officials. Training of public
agency staff concerning community and
women's participation was also critical in
ensuring the success of this process. As
a result, 250,000 households were in-
volved in earthquake-safe construction
in Gujarat and Latur. As 4,000 women
and families took loans; 1,200 women
started businesses, and livelihoods and
assets were stabilized. Communities
organized for long-term development.
Today, more than 800 women's groups
work on health, education, water, and
sanitation in their communities.
In Turkey, KEDV used a different
entry point for women's participation. It
began by creating public spaces for
women and their children as a way to
legitimize and sustain women's partici-
pation in the public sphere and to rebuild
disrupted community networks. The
centers for women and children provid-
ed women's groups with a place to meet,
organize, learn new skills to start indi-
vidual and collective businesses, and
gather and share information on the
reconstruction process. The centers also
gave women's groups legitimacy in their
dialogue and negotiations with officials
for information, partnership contracts,
and resources. Since the beginning of
the relief phase, more than 10,000
women and their children have partici-
pated in various activities at the centers.
Women's groups, organized as indepen-

dent service and production coopera-
tives, also assumed control of six of the
centers for women and children and
started numerous savings and credits
groups as well as collective and individ-
ual businesses. More than 100 women
organized around tenant housing coop-
eratives and began negotiations with
government agencies to seek a solution
to their housing problems.
Both SSP and KEDV used peer learn-
ing exchanges among local women's
groups as a capacity-building strategy.
This approach promoted the rapid ex-
pansion of effective practice and demon-
strated that women can function at the
grassroots level as technical assistants to
one another. An unexpected outcome is
the eagerness and effectiveness of wom-
en's groups to provide support and guid-
ance to other women's groups in areas
experiencing disasters. One example is
the Maharashtran women leaders who
helped Gujarati women become in-
formation gatherers, challenge corrupt
officials, scale up savings and credit
groups, and establish public spaces to
sustain their involvement in reconstruc-
tion. More recently, Turkish community
women leaders from the Marmara area
traveled to Bam, Iran to teach women
who also survived a devastating earth-
quake how they had established centers
for women and children in Turkey, nego-
tiated with local authorities, and orga-
nized effective microfinance and enter-
prise projects (see photo).

Lessons Learned

Not only do the case studies pinpoint
postdisaster opportunities for women's
participation and contributions, they
also underscore the conventional attitu-
dinal and operational approaches to
postdisaster programming and resource
allocation that must be overcome to sup-
port women's grassroots organizations
so that they can be fully effective in re-


storing their communities in the relief
and subsequent :- ... i processes.
Four types of barriers are highlighted,
some derived from the tension between
emergency and development approach-
es and others related to biases about
gender roles and professional expertise.
First, despite the lip service paid to
disaster reduction and sustainable de-
velopment, policymakers often fail to
realize that postdisaster efforts are, in
fact, development interventions that
should reflect principles of participation
and 11 it !,illil.. Emergency, short-
term disaster-response programming
favors technical responses that elevate
the involvement of outside professionals
over the priorities, skills, and knowledge
of affected citizens. Standardized, top-
down, bricks-and-mortar-type govern-
ment programs ignore the complexity of
communities' needs in rebuilding their
lives and livelihoods.
Second, even when the importance of
local communities' participation is rec-
ognized, often no clear agreement exists
about what this participation should en-

tail in relation to the roles of the govern-
ment, international relief, and donor or-
ganizations. Lack of communication and
coordination between the government
agencies, aid organizations, and NGOs
often wastes a sizeable share of the
resources flowing into the affected area.
International aid efforts, concentrated on
emergency relief, frequently compounds
the problem by fostering competition,
dependency, and corruption among af-
fected communities and civic groups
trying to access this support.
Third, relief and subsequent recovery
efforts fail to pay adequate attention to
the gender-specific impacts of disasters.
Disasters increase women's household
and care-giving work di iiii..ii i.l. for an
extended period of time as housing and
social infrastructure once destroyed is
slowly replaced. They require women to
manage displaced households and
restore family livelihoods. Yet postdisas-
ter aid efforts ,. i i11 ignore this real-
ity and target male-headed households
as the primary claimants for government
and other support. Not only does this

approach to aid ignore women's joint
claim on family assets, it also ignores the
needs of women living apart from male-
headed households and is largely indif-
ferent to the income-generating roles
that women do and must play. These
biases substantially undermine prospects
for household and community recovery.
Gender-sensitive programming is essen-
tial during emergency relief. The central
aim of disaster relief is to support and
rebuild communities; what women do to
keep their families and communities
together in the critical moments after
disaster occurs often is taken for grant-
ed. Protocols must be developed that
value women's priorities and contribu-
tions appropriately.
Fourth, misconceptions are wide-
spread about grassroots women's groups
as small-scale, passive, and low-tech, de-
spite considerable evidence to the con-
trary (Batliwala 2001). The case studies

indicate that grassroots efforts can, if sup-
ported, rapidly mobilize a critical mass of
actors. Women can acquire nontradition-
al skills and take on information-giving
roles often considered to be the male
domain, overcome male opposition and
skepticism, and take on active leadership
to rebuild their communities.
Reducing the economic vulnerability
of women and of their families is a key
mitigation measure that reduces poten-
tial losses from future disasters. A long-
term development perspective is criti-
cal, starting at the relief stage, in the
allocation and use of resources in order
to foster self-reliance, build local capac-
ity, and avoid dependency. Capturing
momentum in the region early is impor-
tant for integrating women's participa-
tion in postdisaster efforts. Lessons
learned from the case studies shed light
not only on obstacles but also on how
women's involvement adds value and


1..'"II li. it. to postdisaster investments
(see Box 7). The lessons include a set of
good practice principles that could redi-
rect postdisaster programming toward
gender-equitable, community-develop-
ment opportunities. II .*h principles
First, donors and international emer-
gency aid agencies must broaden ac-
countability measures for aid and loan
granting to reward efforts that demon-
strably reduce social vulnerabilities and
foster participatory local development
throughout the postdisaster relief and
recovery stages. Guidelines to distribute
resources more evenly across the stages
of relief to recovery should include hold-
ing the powerful relief industry account-
able. Moreover, distribution and pro-
curement policies should encourage
innovative and appropriate local ap-
proaches, taking special note of the piv-

otal role that women's groups can play
throughout the process of relief, recov-
ery, and long-term development.
Second, as they recognize that poor
women are among the most vulnerable
and marginalized groups when disaster
strikes, policy and program designers
must establish specific monitoring mech-
anisms to ensure that women can access
resources, participate publicly in plan-
ning and decisionmaking associated with
postdisaster recovery, and organize
themselves and build their capacities to
sustain their involvement throughout
the years of the recovery and develop-
ment processes.
Third, the case studies suggest two
cornerstones for good programming:
creating formal spaces where women's
groups can organize to participate in
postdisaster efforts and formally allocat-
ing resources and roles to groups of af-

Box 7

The Practical and Strategic Contributions
of Affected Women to Disaster Response
and Mitigation

Women's groups are talented in gathering
local information that is difficult, if not
impossible for outsiders to access, and in
monitoring the implementation of govern-
ment programs. They can ensure proper
allocation of resources by :. ii !i, n.. 1i:, those
in need and exposing corruption.
Women's groups can collectively mobi-
lize local resources and rebuild conununity
networks to help restore and operate es-
sential services, such as childcare, educa-
tion, health, water, and explore new liveli-
hood activities. Capacity building and finan-
cial support is crucial to support women
develop collective and non-traditional live-
lihood strategies.
Grassroots women can function as
intermediaries between their communities

and the government in a manner that
improves the speed, quality, and account-
ability of the government programs (as in
the case of Maharashtra). When trained,
they can effectively communicate informa-
tion about earthquake safety, mitigation
measures, and government programs, and
resolve local conflicts as negotiators. This
role not only helps affected families, but
also increases the government's r. .ii'iiir,
in the eyes of local communities. An out-
come of their active involvement is respect
in the eyes of their communities and
authorities, which starts changing gender
Women's groups can provide effective
support and guidance to women from new
disaster areas.

fected women to ensure that they can:
(1) access entitlements and assets in a
manner that reduces their vulnerability
and the prevailing gender and class/caste
biases; (2) participate in government and
donor planning processes in order to
design social, livelihood, and housing
support services that reduce the house-
hold and public work burden of poor
women; (3) claim permanent community
meeting spaces that they manage them-
selves; (4) collect and disseminate re-
sources and information; (5) publicly
establish, implement, and evaluate post-
disaster relief-to-recovery plans and pro-
grams related to social, economic, and
physical infrastructure and governance;
(6) have equal access to formal platforms
for ongoing dialogue, negotiations, and
feedback; and (7) claim recognition for
their accomplishments and knowledge,
and in turn, be given the resources to en-
able them to advise their peers in other
affected communities when similar disas-
ters strike.
The case studies also suggest that
institutional frameworks are crucial in
helping to achieve the large-scale partic-
ipation of women. The Maharashtra State
government was persuaded to make for-
mal spaces available for women's partic-
ipation available in reconstruction ef-
forts, and it supported long-term devel-
opment efforts at the district level as
well. Coupled with the Indian quota sys-
tem for women's representation in vil-
lage governments, and the existence of
government antipoverty programs de-
signed to help rural women, Maharash-
tran women's groups were able to orga-
nize effectively.
Finally, given the significant obstacles
to applying a development and gender-
equity approach to postdisaster invest-
ments and programming, the case stud-
ies also imply that women's groups in
affected communities (and supporting

NGOS) benefit from joining networks
that connect their experience, publicly
highlight their results, and link them to
key institutions to advocate for policy
and program change.


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SEEDS Advisory Committee
Judith Bruce (Population Council)
Marilyn Carr (Consultant)
Marty Chen (Harvard University)
Monique Cohen (Microfinance Opportunities)
Caren Grown (Bard College, Levy Economics Institute)
Ann Leonard (Consultant)
Joyce Malombe (Institute of International Education)
Katharine McKee (USAID)
Aruna Rao (Gender at Work)
Mildred Warner (Cornell University)
Corinne Whitaker (International Women's Health Coalition)

Editor: Sandy Schilen
Editorial and Production Coordinator: Michelle Skaer
Copyeditor: Karen Tweedy-Holmes
Designer: Mike Vosika
Cover Photos: Front-Ayse Yonder, Izmit, 2000; Back-Ayse Yonder, Adapazari, 1999

Other Editions of SEEDS Currently Available

No. 2 Hanover Street: An Experiment to
Train Women in Welding and Car-
pentry-Jamaica (English, Spanish)
No. 3 Market Women's Cooperatives: Giv-
ing Women Credit-Nicaragua (Span-
ish, French)
No. 4 Women and Handicrafts: Myth and
Reality-International (English, Span-
ish, French)
No. 5 The Markala Cooperative: A New Ap-
proach to Traditional Economic
Roles-Mali (French)
No. 6 The Working Women's Forum: Organ-
izing for Credit and Change-India
No. 7 Developing Non-Craft Employment
for Women in Bangladesh (English,
French, Spanish)
No. 8 Community Management of Waste Re-
cycling: The SIRDO-Mexico (Eng-
lish, Spanish)
No. 9 The Women's Construction Collective:
Building for the Future-Jamaica
(English, Spanish)
No. 10 Forest Conservation in Nepal: En-
couraging Women's Participation
(English, Spanish, French, Nepali)
No. 11 Port Sudan Small Scale Enterprise
Program-Sudan (English)

No. 12 The Muek-Lek Women's Dairy Proj-
ect in Thailand (English)
No. 13 Child Care: Meeting the Needs of
Working Mothers and Their Children
(English, Spanish)
No. 14 Breaking New Ground: Reaching Out
to Women Farmers in Western Zam-
bia (English, Spanish, French)
No. 15 Self-Employment as a Means to
Women's Economic Self-Sufficiency:
Women Venture's Business Develop-
ment Program (English)
No. 16 Wasteland Development and the Em-
powerment of Women: The SARTHI
Experience (French, Hindi)
No. 17 Supporting Women Farmers in the
Green Zones of Mozambique (Eng-
No. 18 Out of the Shadows: Homebased
Workers Organize for International
Recognition (English)
No. 19 Empowering the Next Generation:
Girls of the Maqattam Garbage Set-
tlement (English, Arabic)
No. 20 Women Street Vendors: The Road to
Recognition (English)
No. 21 Are We Not Peasants Too? Land
Rights and Women's Claims in India

If you would like additional copies of this issue or any SEEDS issues listed above, send an e-mail to:
seeds@popcouncil.org or seedseditor@gmail.com. Copies of selected SEEDS issues in local languages
have been published by organizations in the following countries: Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nepal,
Pakistan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Please write to us for more information if you are interested in these
materials. Most past editions of SEEDS are also available online at: www.popcouncil.org/publications.

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