Maharashtra Women Entrepreneurs: Victims Of 1993 Earthquake Proved Themselves To Be Anything But "Victims"

India has faced a number of natural disasters in the last few decades which have claimed hundreds thousands of lives and heavy financial losses. It has been a general trend that women are often looked on only as victims. The central role of women in dealing with as well as helping the family back on its feet after the disaster, is totally neglected. But in India things changed for the better after the earthquake of 1993. The article below proves there is no tool for development more effective than empowerment of women.

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25 years ago, on September, 30, 1993, India woke up to one of its biggest natural disasters. Latur earthquake was one of the deadliest earthquakes in Maharashtra, measuring 6.2 on the moment magnitude scale. In this intra-plate earthquake about 52 villages were destroyed, over 30,000 were injured and approximately 10,000 were killed.

The major cause of concern for the government was rehabilitation of the homeless, widowed and senior citizens. The relief workers knew ignoring 50% population was not a wise thing to do. They knew they had to involve women to get the area back on its feet.

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But involving ladies was not an easy process as they refused to leave their kitchens and their crumbling houses when the SSP volunteers went across the village asking for their active participation. “It took us practically two years to speak to the ladies and make them conscious of their position in decision-making. They took the lead once they realized that the reconstruction of homes was to not their liking and the cash given to beneficiaries was misused by males within the households,” Godavari, an SSP employee, said in an interview to TOI.

Soon they started a rehabilitation drive, women slowly and steadily, rose up to the occasion and took it up as a challenge to restore their homes both physically as well as financially. With that nearly one lakh women became part of self-help groups (SHGs) and trained themselves in entrepreneurship, marketing and finance of agricultural and non-agricultural small scale businesses.

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Around 41,000 ladies were trained by the NGO Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP) in natural farming on their household’s lands. “The lady farmers have earned an income of Rs 516 crore over the previous few years as the price of manufacturing of meals crops is lower than money crops like sugarcane,” SSP head Prema Gopalan advised PTI.

After 12 months of the earthquake when it came to rebuilding the area along with the houses, the SSP skilled the ladies to act as sanvad sahayaks and look over the reconstruction and repairs of the homes with engineers and contractors.

The women in these areas now look after the meals, water and animal safety, which has resulted in improved all-round wellbeing of the entire household. Ladies have taken up natural farming by growing millets, dal, pulses and oil seeds which got these women a further earnings of Rs 80,000 to Rs 1 lakh every year.

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The way SSP turned these docile ignorant women into reassured, confident ones is beyond belief. Sometimes you just can’t pay it back so the best thing to do is pay it forward. So these ladies in order to help as they were helped during their time of need went as sanvad sahayaks within the quake- affected villages, even travelled to Tamil Nadu to help in the rehabilitation work after tsunami in 2004 and in addition Bhuj in Gujarat which was equally torn apart by an earthquake in 2001.

These independent women, who had difficulty in leaving their kitchen and the confines of their home are brimming with confidence and are making their voice heard. A lot of them having their own success stories to tell. Like Archana Bhosale, a farmer from Tuljapur village in Osmanadabd, began with the natural farming of meal crops and pulses is now one of many administrators of an organization which handles manufacturing of those crops, their certification, processing and sale. Kanta Patil, from Killari village in Latur, with help of other women made gram sabha to take up voting on a proposal to cease giving licenses to liquor retailers.

The women here have set a glorious example for the rest of India. Hopefully, women would someday be treated as more than just “Victims.”

Picture Source : Top Yaps; India Today; The Better India; Flickr

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