Working in the disaster management field for more than two decades, non-governmental welfare organisation, Goonj, knows the importance of continuing relief work even when the rehab phase starts. But here's an idea prioritising dignity as a basic but often ignored human need, like food, more so in disasters. Let's replace charity with dignity. Goonj has been practising this as 'Dignity For Work' DFW initiative (earlier called Cloth for Work) for the past two decades, for wide-ranging development work triggered by mobilizing, motivating and empowering people. In this week's report, we share some stories about how DFW is unlocking the immense potential of the COVID and Amphan affected people.
In the last few weeks across India, including the Amphan cyclone devastated West Bengal and Odisha, like many earlier disasters, we have started moving away from charity to our 'Dignity For Work' (DFW) model that involves a four-step process.
Mobilise people to identify and prioritize their own community problems.
- Motivate them to evolve a localized solution, using their wisdom and natural resources.
- Empower them to collectively work and implement their own solution.
- Receive relief material kits with dignity, as a reward for their efforts.
The possibilities of 'Dignity For Work' are immense. All it needs is for the civil society to move the decision making to the people and stand with them to fill the gaps. When people take ownership of their own problems and solutions, they can move mountains… or make bridges.
Kerala: Unclogging The Arteries Of Kuttanad
What roads are to us, canals are to the people of Kuttanad. To tackle the invasive growth of water hyacinth in the backwaters of Edathua panchayat, our team in Kerala motivated the locals towards the cleaning of a 300mx12m stretch of canal. With the water hyacinth removed, adequate water now reaches the paddy fields, apart from being available for domestic use. The clear canal has also enabled people to freely move about in their canoes. In Kuttanad region of Alleppey, Goonj is extensively working towards the cleaning of backwaters to ensure the unhindered flow of rainwater and to prevent the impact of impending waterlogging during the monsoon.
Jammu & Kashmir: Let's Go Back To School
The residents in Harrog region of Ramban district, Jammu, received Goonj's support for a makeover... makeover of a school. The parents were sceptical to send their wards to the unkempt premises, where classes are to resume by July. As the annual school maintenance work couldn't be undertaken this year following the lockdown and the non-availability of labour, when approached by our Jammu team, the villagers expressed their unanimous desire to clean the school and repair the pathway leading to it. Goonj supported their decision, helped them with painting materials and rewarded their efforts with essential Rahat Kits.
Rajasthan: No more walk-for-water
When it is common for people, including pregnant women, to walk 5 km under the DFW Activity-Ramban District, Jammu Division (3) corching sun just to fetch water for daily use, something must be very wrong with the society. But, for the people of Lalpada village in Banswara district of Rajasthan, this has been the reality for years. When the handpumps failed and people were forced to drink dirty water, the villagers approached Goonj's community worker there, who motivated them to dig an open well. As a result of the hard work of 128 people, the region now has access to clean drinking water. Moreover, they are delighted that the activity has awakened the spirit of unity among the villagers.
Tamil Nadu: Ensuring Food Security
For the people of Guduvancheri village of Tiruvallur district in Tamil Nadu, given the high price of paddy, the availability of freshwater in the paddy field of the region is crucial to ensure their livelihood, as well as the food security of the region. However, when the parched village pond clubbed with the presence of overgrown aquatic weeds in the irrigation canals hindered the flow of freshwater through their paddy fields, encouraged by Goonj, 103 villagers came towards the cleaning of a 400mx4m irrigation canal. They were happy to have found solutions to their issues apart from having their efforts being rewarded with Rahat Kits during the time of the lockdown.
West Bengal: Building Bridges
Three years ago, rains washed away the bamboo bridge at Foskadanga village in Alipurduar district of West Bengal. Goonj, in collaboration with its partner organization, mobilized 40 residents to rebuild the bridge under its DFW initiative. As a result of their tireless efforts, the region now has an access point that has enabled them to commute without worry.
Maharashtra: A Clean Drop To Drink
In Palghar district of Maharashtra, water scarcity during intense summers, combined with the receding water levels in the wells, forced the people of the region to consume mucky water. Moreover, with the fear of an impending outbreak of water-borne diseases, Goonj motivated 207 people from the 15 villages of Vikramgad, Dahanu and Palghar blocks to work towards the cleaning of 15 wells of the region. Wells as deep as 30 feet were cleaned merely using local resources. With the monsoons approaching, villagers are happy and hopeful that the revived wells will soon be able to hold freshwater for them.