SRI LANKA Empowered women in times of disaster

 Sri Lanka
 Emergency Response
 21st Feb 2011

Giving climate change and natural disaster a gender perspective
By Romayne Anthony, CARE International

One week after the floods hit the Polonnaruwa district, thousands flocked with their families to relief centers for food, water and other critical supplies. But in the village of Bogaswewa one single mother failed to collect her supplies simply because she chose not to. Indra Kumari is partially deaf and has been part of CARE’s Bridge project since 2010. With her first grant of Rs. 10,000 Indra bought two goats to supplement her labourer’s income and despite living in the deepest poverty with limited resources she has consistently refused to borrow money from lenders.

Her 4 year old son and 12 year old daughter both attend school on the strength of Indra’s hard work but even such resilience has been stretched thin in the disaster. “All my chickens died and I lost some of my goats as well, and since I can’t hear I checked on my goats every hour so I managed to save three of them including one who was just born”

His mother lost in the flood, the newborn goat has found a place in Indra’s heart and hearth where he sleeps for warmth in the continuing chilly weather. Every 3 hours Indra feeds him warm kanji(rice porridge) praying he will survive for all their sakes. Even with her impaired hearing Indra goes out to work the fields with her cousin who helps her communicate on the job. Her father explains how her condition had not stopped her from attended CARE’s training workshops on animal husbandry.

Indra Kumari may not be in the desperate plight facing the rest of her village simply due to her own resilience and ingenuity to cope better with the disaster. In one week Indra has begun to mix cement on her own and rebuild her flood hit kitchen. Her 4 year old son has returned to primary school and her 12 year old daughter is back in school complete with shoes and uniform.

Indra Kumari is among the thousands of women who have been affected the worst, first by poverty, and now by disaster. Women like her are also most often in charge of growing and gathering food, water and preparing meals, burdening harsher responsibilities but having little economic independence in case of food insecurity. For Indra Kumari CARE’s Bridge project has been a life-saver, giving her much needed economic independence, knowledge and skill to make and run her own household.

The Building Relationship in Development and Gender Equity (BRIDGE) program is implemented by CARE INTERNATIONAL-SRI LANKA. The program duration is from January, 2008 until September, 2010. BRIDGE is implemented in Batticaloa District, and Pollanaruwa District, the three major areas associated with the former conflict.

The Goal of the BRIDGE program is to select communities (with the special focus on Women Headed Households) in the districts of Batticaloa and Polonnaruwa effectively supported by the networks and service providers to achieve their rights and participate fully in efforts to foster, maintain and promote peace and security within their families, communities and society at large.

BRIDGE was developed to address and advocate the issues of Women headed house holds and also strengthening the net works in divisional level and district level to prevent the Gender Based Violence   in East, which were severely impacted by Sri Lanka’s conflict of over 20 years (the conflict ended in 2009). 

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