The Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) has started an initiative to equip rural women of Odisha with life-saving skills and information to fall back on in the times of cyclones. Odisha is a cyclone-prone state with a history of three cyclones in five years — Phailin in 2013, Hudhud in 2014 and Titli in 2018. In such a scenario disaster management is a key necessity for the state and its people and that’s why south coastal Odisha’s Ganjam district started Swayamsiddha, a project as an effort to educate rural women on how to deal with cyclones.
The program implemented with the help of trainer Bijay Kumar, member of ODRAF has been kick-started with a batch of 50 women, all of whom are decked in Swayamsiddha’s special uniform, green coats and caps at the Old Collectorate Building at Chattrapur block in Ganjam. The training programme also falls around the same time when two decades ago 1999 Super Cyclone hit the state and took around 10,000 lives with it.
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The training sessions involve interactive and intensive training by local ODRAF members, police and the fire and health departments.
“Swayamsiddha means self-sufficiency. We will be training 5,000 women across 23 blocks in the district. In this district that’s vulnerable to disasters, we will try to turn rural women from the rescued to the rescuers,” says Ganjam Collector Vijay Amrut Kulange, one of the members of the core team involved in designing the programme to Indian Express.
Women are also learning the act of “persuasive evacuation” through the training sessions. Police and district administration had a tough time evacuating people, especially pregnant and older women. There were other problems too — in some cases, women were uncomfortable being carried by men,” says Bharati Behera, another district official said about Cyclone Fani which hit the state in May this year. “We are training women to evacuate women because as members of the community, they can be more persuasive,” she added.
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The training programme with women mostly deals with how women rescuers will help evacuate the disabled, the elderly and pregnant women. It also teaches women to start a generator, operate an electric chain saw to cut trees, and use household items such as an old scooter tyre tube to stay afloat. The district health and fire department units are also educating women to rescue people in other situations like dog bites, snakebites, and extinguishing kitchen fires at home. And police is imparting basic self-defence techniques to rural women.
“Swayamsiddha means self-sufficiency. We will be training 5,000 women across 23 blocks in the district. In this district that’s vulnerable to disasters, we will try to turn rural women from the rescued to the rescuers.”
Swayamsiddha programme has trained two batches so far and is free of cost initiative. All the women attending the sessions are provided with lunch and a colourful 35-page booklet with information printed in Odia. It has been sponsored by Odisha Livelihood Mission, Odisha State Disaster Management Authority and Mission Shakti. “If trained correctly, people need not depend on the government for everything in the aftermath of a natural calamity,” says Kulange.
Picture credit: Indian Express