Rebuilding Lives of Earthquake Affected Families: SEWA’s Approach and Steps

    Based on SEWA’s experience on the economic rehabilitation and shelter reconstruction of more than 80000 women members who were severely affected by the earthquake that hit Gujarat in 2001, we are making a small attempt to summarize a participatory approach which was very people centric adopted by SEWA. 


    SEWA took immediate action on hearing the news from members and worked intensively on assessment of damages, relief distribution and rebuilding efforts. SEWA’s rebuilding approach was livelihoods centre and participatory where communities were at the centre and at every step of rebuilding process. 


    SEWA immediately started getting the information on the damages from it’s members from remote areas. Based on the information on loss and damages, SEWA headquarters geared up for coordination of relief supply and relief support to meet with the field needs with different government and no- governmental organisations.  SEWA was liasoning with government control rooms at block, district and state level for supply of damage information and requirement for relief and on the other hand providing information to government to initiate relief operations to the needy areas. 


    Following two processes were implemented simultaneously at the outset of working for earthquake rehabilitation work. 


    a) Assessment of the damages to understand the further assistance sought by communities, village to village visits were conducted and photographic documentation, survey
    and assessments were done. The information were feed in the assessment reports and analysed the needs of communities. SEWA got first hand updates on relief and rehabilitation Work that the government will be doing. During entire process, SEWA worked closely with government on designing proper relief and rehabilitation packages based on the assessment data.


    b) Relief distribution The relief distribution was conducted at the village level where the families were given basic necessities which included carpets, food kits and family kits.  Government control rooms were provided information on the requirement and distribution on the areas which were left out.


    Once the assessment was completed, SEWA took up reconstruction process which can be categorised in two steps a) mid-term support and b) long term rehabilitation.


    The mid-term support mainly involves the provision of temporary shelter till the housing construction takes place.  The families were supplied tents / tarpaulin sheets and food kits. Once the families get temporary shelter, the next need was of livelihood regeneration.  SEWA gradually started livelihoods of the artisans in the temporary shelters.  During the process, SEWA started designing the longer term rebuilding strategy in participatory way through owner driven approach for construction of weather and calamity resistant Households which lights through solar energy.


    The longer term reconstruction efforts involved following steps


    1)     Owner driven shelter reconstruction: Once the clearance for reconstruction of shelters was received, SEWA started construction of houses by involving communities. Communities were made aware about disaster resistant housing and were involved in every stage of construction from design, construction, monitoring and quality check.


    2)     Livelihood regeneration for affected Households: The foremost healing aspect in the lives of the affected families was livelihood regeneration. Livelihood generation approach was reviving the traditional livelihood opportunities which were their traditional occupation. The new skills like masonry training were imparted to the members based on the future need for reconstruction. In some cases, the revolving funds were provided to purchase tools, equipments or raw material.