Huairou Update January 26, 2012

GROOTS Kenya Leader Invited to Africa Progress Panel | Geneva, Switzerland, January 31

Esther Mwaura-Muiru, founder and coordinator of GROOTS Kenya  
Esther Mwaura-Muiru, founder and coordinator of GROOTS Kenya, has been invited by former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, to take part in the Africa Progress Panel this January 31 in Geneva, Switzerland. 
A select group will join members of the panel, which includes Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, women and children's rights activist Garça Machel, and musician and philanthropist Bob Geldof, in order to "exchange ideas, experiences and opinions on the implications of the changing global context for Africa's Progress." 

Key themes to be discussed at the meeting include equitable growth and poverty, employment, governance, social development, peace and security, human rights and resource mobilization, all of which present both opportunities and challenges for the continent. 


The meeting  provides a platform for participants to discuss these themes and make recommendations to be included in the Africa Progress Panel's Annual Progress Report, which will be launched at the World Economic Forum Meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in May 2012. Mwaura-Muiru's voice will add a crucial grassroots woman's perspective to shaping the panel's recommendations.



Women Organize for Cyclone Relief | Tamil Nadu, India 


On December 29 and 30 2011, Cyclone Thane hit the coast of Tamil Nadu on the southeast tip of the Indian subcontinent, destroying livestock, livelihoods and lives with waves reaching heights of 1.5 meters (5 ft) and winds up to 135 km/h (83 mph).


To date, the cyclone has killed more than 45 people and many animals due to collapsing infrastructure and falling trees and power lines. Displaced coastal fishing and farming communities sought refuge in makeshift relief shelters set up in schools. Water scarcity due to damaged water pumps and wells, combined with blocked roads, added to the impact of the storm.


Fortunately, grassroots women-- trained to reduce and cope with the impacts of natural disaster-- have been mobilizing to respond to such crisis situations. Their early alert system helped prevent casualties, their assessment visits provided logistical and moral support to affected communities and their interaction with authorities continues to facilitate the recovery process.


A needs assessment recently released by the Women's Federation in Cuddalore, supported by Swayam Skikshan Prayog (Self Education for Empowerment, or SSP) highlights grassroots women's efforts to identify priorities for immediate disaster response.


Learning from past disasters

Following the 2004 tsunami and Cyclone Nisha in 2006, groups of grassroots women participated in training programs offered by Huairou Commission member organizations SSP and GROOTS International, focused on disaster risk reduction. Through these trainings, women gained skills and experience in understanding community needs, negotiating with government, and preparing their communities in search, rescue, warning and rehabilitation techniques. SSP facilitated the formation of disaster task forces in many villages, starting with Keelamoovarkarai village, Nagapattinam.


Recognizing the ongoing need for such knowledge, groups of grassroots women then decided to continue their relief work on a more long-term basis. They organized Women's Federations in Cuddalore and Nagapattinam. Since successfully intervening in Cyclone Nisha, these Women's Federations have begun to provide training to other village communities. As Cyclone Thane approached in late December 2011, organized grassroots women were prepared to respond.

The delegation of Women's Federation members was headed by Chitra, the leader of Nagapattinam Women's Federation, along with B. Gouri, Rani, Maheshwari, Padmavathi and Annalakshimi, all nominated from the Nagapattinam Women's Federation. Mohana and A. Vijaya represented Cuddalore Women's Federation. The groups visited the villages of Nochikadu, Singarathoppu, Kandankadu, Tsunami Nagar and Thazhankuda.


The calls before the storm

In the days leading up to Cyclone Thane, Women's Federation leaders from Cuddalore used an early warning system to reach out to local villages likely to be affected. According to Mohana, leader of the Cuddalore Women's Federation, "We sent SMS messages and made phone calls to many [of] our group leaders to alert their communities on the cyclone." This strategy helped to save several lives.


Grassroots women take the lead

During the cyclone, grassroots women played a pivotal role in meeting the needs of their communities, for example by obtaining food and water supplies from other organizations to distribute to people in need.


In many cases, grassroots women took it upon themselves to intervene where the government was unable to respond to crises. In the fishing village of Singarathoppu, where heavy wind and rainfall destroyed many houses, Women's Federation leader Mohana helped evacuate families in a low-lying area rather than waiting for government officials. In the village of Kandankadu, women took more drastic measures when their water supply was threatened. When the local women's group's request for a village officer to arrange for drinking water fell on deaf ears, they locked the officer in the room until later that evening, releasing him when higher officials promised to address the problem.


Assessing the Damage

In the aftermath of the cyclone, on January 7, 2012, Women's Federations visited affected communities to see the storm's impact firsthand. 


According to estimates made by women's groups, out of a total 2,450 houses in 5 villages, 1,500 houses were damaged by the cyclone.


Families living in thatched houses faced the most destruction, many losing their entire home. Communities continue to struggle with a lack of drinking water and electricity from the storm damage, along with food shortages-rice, milk, vegetables and other supplies cannot reach those in need due to road blockages. Transportation remains at a standstill, as fuel is unavailable. In Nochikadu village, which depends on cashew nuts as a cash crop, many cashew trees were uprooted and the majority of houses were damaged. Women and young girls staying in shelters face vulnerability in public facilities lacking privacy.


Moving forward

The state government of Tamil Nadu has announced relief packages for fully and partially damaged houses and certain fishermen will qualify to be compensated for damaged boats, but no relief for crop damages has been announced.


In order to bring stability back to the lives of disaster-affected people, SSP is helping to facilitate post-cyclone initiatives along with Women's Federation in Cuddalore. They are addressing food and water shortages and trying to identify alternative livelihood options. With the evidence they gathered, grassroots women also met with Panchayat (local government) leaders to jointly evaluate the response and plan of action to for rehabilitation.



Grassroots women's short-term recommendations include involving women-led task forces in overseeing relief and rehabilitation and replanting lost trees, organizing health camps, distributing relief according to their needs assessment and increasing house compensation, compensating farmers for lost crops, providing basic sanitation in temporary shelters, and addressing drinking water issues. These recommendations coincide with the longer-term goals of providing livelihood support for affected community members, handing over management of the early warning system, building permanent houses for affected people, and ultimately forming and strengthening disaster task forces in all coastal villages. 






Video | "I'm alive, I can dance and everything." 


Watch this beautiful video, "Hope at the Grassroots," depicting how African communities struggling with the effects of AIDS are creatively incorporating song, dance and drawing into their work, with the support of the Stephen Lewis Foundation

Hope at the Grassroots
Hope at the Grassroots

The Stephen Lewis Foundation supports members of GROOTS International to participate in the Huairou Commission's AIDS campaign, which ensures that grassroots women leading the fight against HIV/AIDS in their communities are represented in decision-making spaces.


To learn more about home-based care, watch this video about Seke Rural Home-Based Care in Zimbabwe.




Tools | Women's Safety and Inclusion in Cities

As an accompaniment to its publication, Tools for Gathering Information about Women's Safety and Inclusion in Cities, Women in Cities International (WICI) is providing PDF and Microsoft Word versions of tools (including focus group discussion, safety audit and street survey guides) online in Spanish, Hindi, Russian and Swahili. Tools for Gathering Information about Women's Safety and Inclusion in Cities has been developed for the Gender Inclusive Cities Programme, funded by the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women and can be used by urban decision-makers, activists and the general public alike understand how to create environments where women and men can equally access their right to the city. 
Translated versions of the tools are available in Spanish, French and English.
WICI would like to extend a special thanks to the programme's implementing partners 
(Jagori, CISCSA, the International Centre and Network for Information on Crime - Tanzania, and the Information Centre of the Independent Women's Forum) for their help in developing these translations. 


2012 World Water Week  Proposals | Deadline February 15

World Water Week will take place August 16-31 in Stockholm, Sweden. Individuals and organizations are now invited to submit event proposals and abstracts by February 15, 2012. The theme for this year's event is global "Water and Food Security." The forum focuses on new thinking and positive action toward water-related challenges and their impact on global policy toward the environment, health, climate and poverty reduction.


Submit a proposal for a side event or seminar

Submit a scientific workshop abstract

For more information, visit




Sign Up for CSW56 NGO Speaker Lists | Deadline February 17


Sign-up forms are now available online for NGOs to deliver oral statements (3 minutes or less) during the general discussion at CSW56, as well as a limited number of interventions during interactive expert panels. Priority will be given to rural and grassroots women's organizations.


Sign up for general discussion statements or expert panel intervention before February 17, 2012.





Reducing Urban Poverty

Deadline February 20


Submissions for an upcoming policy workshop and paper competition on urban poverty in the developing world are now being accepted until February 20, 2012. The competition, co-sponsored by USAID's Urban Programs Team, International Housing Coalition (IHC), World Bank, Woodrow Wilson Center's Comparative Urban Studies Project (CUSP) and Cities Alliance, promotes early career research and aims to encourage a new generation of urban policy makers. Papers must focus on the topics of land markets, climate change, or youth. Winners will be published and some authors will be selected to present their papers in a policy workshop in Washington, D.C. in October 2012, and/or the World Urban Forum in September 2012 in Naples, Italy.


To submit a paper or for further information, contact Nancy Leahy.

Read about last year's competition.  


World Urban Forum 6 | Deadline March 2012

Under the theme The Urban Future, the Sixth Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF6) will take place in the ancient southern Italian city of Naples, Italy,  September 1-7, 2012.

The call for online application for Networking events is ongoing and will close on 10 March 2012
The call for application for Training proposals is also ongoing and will close on 1 March 2012.


For more information, continue to check the WUF6 website 



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