"Children and women are at the core of our project", Shweta Gupta (AIILSG)

Interview with Shweta Gupta

All India Institute of Local Self-Government

Shweta, you won the 2015 RISK Award, what does this mean for you and the project?
The RISK Award is a great motivation for us as a team and for the people we represent. Now we can implement our project and build resilience for slum dwellers. We think we can serve some 25,000 people from ten slums in Pune in phase one.

What will be the next steps?
We will work closely with the vulnerable poor from the very beginning. We will teach them how to assess their own situation in relation to risks and natural hazards. We will try to include as many women and children because they are the most vulnerable in our poor areas.

What about the men?
Men are very active in India, they often take the stage anyways.  Women spend most of the time in their homes, they are not enough involved in decisions, planning and in taking action. That’s why we need to reach them and encourage them.

What is the role of children in the project?
Children are our future generation. Very young children often cannot read but as a rule they are very receptive. We start with street plays to gain their attention. We then use pictorial tools, which they understand und usually like a lot. Finally, we conduct mock drills to train them how to react for example in the case of a fire or building collapse.

What about natural hazards?
We have different kinds of hazards and critical ones especially during the time of the monsoon. Our slums are often located at hills or very close to riverbeds. In case of heavy rain the slopes get instable or the rivers are flooding the area. We must prepare those who live there and usually are in their homes.

What are key elements of your project and how do you ensure sustainability?
There are two important elements. First of all we train the people how to perform self assessments. The people get aware about their situation and build capacity. Then we train trainers and carefully hand the project over to the community. The vulnerable groups create Slum Disaster Management Committees with so-called master trainers. Our women often serve as volunteers in these teams. They are proud to play an important role and they care. This creates a lot of ownership which is the basis for sustainability.

Where do you see the project in two years time?
We now immediately start in two slums. Our plan is to have disaster management plans for them in year one. Then we will take the model, upscale and multiply it in other slum areas in Pune. After two years we will hopefully have reached ten slums in the city. We will be having community engagement and  planning skills. The people will be ready to design disaster management schemes. This is what we are striving for.

Will your project only work in Pune or India?
No, not at all. The layout of our approach and program is international and can be used everywhere. Our programme can serve some 65 million slum dwellers in India alone and we are sure that the model will suit more than 800 million slum dwellers in poor regions all around the globe. I know that we will be having a lot of work - but with the RISK Award we can now start our mission.

CB, 17 March 2015

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RISK Award 2015 awardee

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