ANAWIM     <>    TSUNAMI

 

Anawim Trust in partnership with the International Ocean Institute (IOI) has been coordinating an ecovillages project in about 55 coastal villages and have focused on the development of women and children and has promoted a number of ecological interventions.Anawim Trust as a dedicated and transparent NGO has been working among the dalit villages near Tiruchendur since 1993.

 

 

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The dalit village of Senthilveedhi, about 3 km from the town of Tiruchendur, Tuticorin District, Tamil Nadu, India.

 Out of the Anawim  IOI Project villages, Senthilveedhi was the worst affected, though several other villages too experienced damage. The major occupation in Senthilveedhi is the collection of seashells and conversion into lime. A small number of the villagers are engaged in fishing.

 The shells come in from the sea only during three months – November to January. During the season, the villagers collect the shells day and night, whenever they are washed ashore, and dump them in big mounds on the shore. The rest of the year they make a living by firing the shells in small kilns.

 On December 26, 2004, the tsunami took away in a few minutes the entire shell collection and all the kilns. The few catamarans owned by the people were also damaged. All the villagers lost their livelihoods. The Children’s Centre that was providing much-needed supplementary education to the village children was also washed away.

The tragedy of post-tsunami relief work has been that all the resources and attention have been concentrated on the worst hit areas elsewhere on the coast. Very little relief and rehabilitation has reached villages like Senthilveedhi. Four months after the disaster, the villagers are in destitution. Initiatives to scale-up their activities they must partner with each other through a confederation established by a larger Grants Programme

Continuing the thrust of the  Ecovillages activities, the Project  focus is also on women and children.

The reasons for this approach are:

 

  • Women generally carry a heavier burden (compared to men) in running the household and have also felt a greater impact of the tsunami damage.

 

  • Past experience in the our Ecovillages project has shown that women are very responsive to the development activities and a focus on women and children has led to greater wellbeing in the family.

 

While the first task is to restore the livelihood of the women by rebuilding the kilns, it is also necessary to view the disaster as an opportunity to retrain the women in alternate occupations. Shell collection and processing is not only subject to the vagaries natural forces, but is also not sustainable in the long run.  As the population grows, there will not be enough shells for all. In such a case, the villagers will also be forced to buy corals illegally mined by others.

 

The Project will also restore the Children’s Centre and strengthen in a sustainable way the educational, recreational, and cultural activities of the children traumatized by the tsunami.

 

The project aims at long-term sustainability. By the end of the project, the women are expected to be independent and to continue their old and new occupations without any external support. They will also help run the Children’s Centre. 

 

The project activities are:

 

  • Rebuilding kilns for the women.

 

  • Providing microcredit to the women as working capital to restart their operations.

 

  • Retraining the women in alternate occupations like making palm leaf products, setting up nurseries for trees and plants, tailoring, small-scale food processing, etc.

 

  • Providing general entrepreneurship training to all the women.

 

  • Seting up a Counselling-cum-Production Centre with common facilities for:
    • Counselling for women deeply traumatized by the tsunami.
    • Training women in disaster preparedness.
    • General entrepreneurship training for all the women.
    • Retraining women in alternate occupations.
    • Launch the production of items like palm leaf products, food items, etc.

 

  • Rebuilding the Children’s Centre and equip it with a library, play equipment, computers, etc.

 

  • Providing initial support for running the Children’s centre, organizing educational and recreational activities, and providing vocational training for older children.

 

The target group is the dalits, who are the bottom of the social hierarchy in Indian society and were considered untouchables before Independence. In spite of constitutional safeguards, the social and economic situation of many such groups has not improved much.           

Most of the villagers are engaged in producing lime from seashells. Given the social conditions, only a small number undertake fishing.  A few others are employed as agricultural laborers and construction workers.

 The total population of the village is about 380, of which adult women are 130. There are about 75 children.

The project   benefits almost all the families of the village.

 

 

 

The Village Of Senthilveedhi

NORMAL TIMES

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POST TSUNAMI

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