Following the Tsunami that destroyed a vast section of the Indian coast on 26 December 2004, SOLIDAR members Volkshilfe Austria, CGIL- Progetto Sviluppo (Italy), ASB Deutschland and Solidarité Laïque (France) joined together within the SOLIDAR India Consortium to develop a support programme for the tsunami victims in the Southern district of Nagapattinam.

Between 2004 – 2008, this programme managed to provide:

  • construction of 297 houses for more than 1,500 people
  • building of 4 community centres for the benefit of 9,600 villagers
  • 11 schools for more than 1,902 children
  • 250 boats (livelihood / income for about 15,000 people)
  • 427 nets and 365 engines
  • 16 child development centres
  • promotion and support for 1,560 children
  • mobile health care provided in 16 villages of Nagapattinam District
  • vocational training and education for youth (construction of two training centres and running training courses in automobile/welding/electrics/computer)
  • 132 women’s Self Help Groups (SHG) with more than 2,600 women organised

The second phase of the programme started in 2008, gradually linking relief help to reconstruction and longer-term development, through several components:

1. Women empowerment
The SOLIDAR India Consortium programme included several projects to support the empowerment of women through income-generating activities and to contribute to social and gender equality.

The formation of self-help groups is the core pillar of this approach. It mobilises women around savings and credit activities, afterwards it implements economic activities according to a business plan elaborated together by the women. Members focus mainly on processing and marketing local products such as fish, mangos, prawns, cashew nuts, coconuts etc. For women, the advantage is not only an economic but also a social one: they can discuss their problems and look for solutions, they receive technical skill trainings, take part in courses on leadership, administration, project.

The self-help groups have considerably changed our lives. We have now a bank account and are doing our own business. In case of any problems we address the village leader directly. We have our own income and make decisions together with our husbands – none of this would have been possible before” Sundari T.

2. The Mobile Clinic health care project

In order to ensure primary and basic health care for the population of 16 villages in a long-term, the mobile clinic program started in April 2006: an ambulance equipped with basic medical instruments and a medical team – a doctor, a nurse and a lab-assistant employed – which visits each village and provides health care free of cost twice a month; women, children and elderly people mainly benefit from the program and the mobile clinic team also provides pre- and post- natal care to pregnant women and their children.

I have to pay the doctor in cash when my children get sick. Before, I had to take the long way to the capital. Sometimes I don’t even have money for the bus. Now the mobile clinic comes to our village twice a month and we can see the doctor there.” Thangamma P. (single mother with three kids)

3. Vocational Training for Youth in Nagapattinam districts

The Dalits constitute an important part of the Nagapattinam population. They belong to the lowest caste and most of them live in absolute poverty. Working in the low-income job sectors as day fishers or labourers, or informal street vendors, Dalits were among the most affected by the Tsunami. Discrimination, low education levels and insecurity of income make them particularly vulnerable.

The Vocational Training and Youth Education project started in May 2006 aims to provide alternatives to the younger generation. It offers training and tutorial courses to 450 young men and women who did not complete basic education to provide them with professional qualification (in business management, automobile, electrics, welding and computer soft- and hardware, tailoring etc.) or to encourage them to undertake higher studies. The courses are held over a 6 month period and recognised by the Indian Government. More than 75% of the youth who benefitted from the Vocational Training Centre trainings have found employment within the following year.

My family is poor; they make a living with fishing. Now I have the opportunity to be educated as an electrician. This opens up more possibilities for me regarding my professional future.” Mallaya N.

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