Monday, December 29, 2014

10 Years After the Tsunami : How Are the Women?

10 years have passed since the devastating Tsunami happened.  How have things changed on the ground since then, especially for those who bore the brunt of that disaster? In this second part of my photo blog,  I am sharing few photographs of women in the coastal villages that I met.

 The most optimistic picture that I saw was this...

I met this woman - Shivapiriya - near the famous shore temple of Mahabalipuram. She was there with her sister, speaking to a relative on a cell phone. 10 years ago, she didn't have a cell. But today, if disaster strikes, Kavitha is confident that she can reach out someone- anyone -and call for help, no matter wherever she is. No technology alone cannot guarantee safety, not of the climatic kind, but it can sure decrease the level of helplessness, especially for a woman.

And the most depressing picture was this...

Nemmelli is a large coastal village with over 4000 people. It has 7 neighborhoods, a school, a college and even a desalination factory. It boasts of a community hall that is large and all the roads inside the village are pretty wide. In short, the village looks pretty good. 
But right in the middle of the village stands this broken structure that reads 'community center for women'. The pathetic condition of the village talks volume of women's engagement in the development process. 

Disaster Preparedness - just a man's business?

And I saw some proof of this in a meeting inside the village community hall. A couple of NGOs were organizing a workshop for the villagers on disaster preparedness. One by one, about 20 men gathered at the hall. They were members of the village resident's disaster resilience committee, I was told. I strained my eyes to see a woman's face in the crowd. And I did find one. JUST ONE! Talk about tokenism!

So where are the women?

Well, they are where they always were : out there, working. Supporting families. NOT deliberating. Not deciding.

Being out of picture doesn't lessen their insecurity

In 2004, this woman had lost her mother when the sea waves, caused by the tsunami washed her away. She was too old to run, so left behind in the hut. Today her daughter fears the same fate: "I am afraid that one day it might happen to me."  

Some are re-writing the story

But unlike the older generation, younger women seem proactive. These two sisters - Sukanya and Sujitha of Kovalam village have just finished their graduation studies and are now planning to get a masters degree - the first girls in their village to do so. Both want to teach at a university someday. Oh and they have studied disaster management, among other subjects!

And some are hope personified!

Vijay Lakshmi is 22. 10 years ago, girls of her age were long-married and had children as well. But today, Vijay Lakshmi's fisherman father Madhavan has no plans to marry her off. The girl has just graduated and Madhavan wants to see her get a job, enjoy her life. Marriage can wait till then.

There's something else: Madhavan, doesn't catch as many fishes as he did earlier. He blames a desalination plant that the govt built last year next to his village. Since the tsunami, he has also come to fear the sea because it can act strangely any time again. Faced with so many uncertainties, Madhavan's hopes lie in his daughter, who, if he believes, can help begin a life afresh, anywhere, any time.

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