Entrepreneur for change creates #DignityinFloods campaign
GUWAHATI: Mayuri Bhattacharjee, an entrepreneur for change has started a petition on Change.org to build 50 women-friendly flood shelters in Assam to ensure #DignityInFloods for women of rural Assam.
Her petition demands that the Government of Assam build 50 women-friendly flood shelters in the 10 most flood-prone districts in the state for the safety and dignity of women in those areas.
“We have floods in Assam and everyone knows that. I have been working in rural Assam and these flood shelters come up but they are not women-friendly. There are no separate toilets for women, no menstrual hygiene facilities are available and most times, it is very unsafe,” said Bhattacharjee.
She further mentioned that there are many reasons why she believes that this mission is entirely achievable. First, floods are quite predictable in Assam and it hits every year and usually in the same areas. Most often, the same schools and community centres are turned into designated flood shelters. This means that the Assam government can use the predictability of the situation to its advantage by being better prepared. They can improve existing structures and build new ones to provide basic safety, hygiene and dignity to women who are already battling these floods.
“Assam Disaster Management Manual 2015 has guidelines for a gender-sensitive approach, but the Annual Joint Needs Assessment reports reveals a lack of concrete action on ground,” explained Bhattacharjee.
In demanding the women-friendly flood shelters, Bhattacharjee said that they should have the following features:
· Gender-segregated toilets and bathing facilities with provision of menstrual hygiene products and disposal facilities.
Special provisions for lactating mothers and pregnant women.
Periodic visits and feedback sessions by social welfare department officials to ensure safety of women and girls in the flood shelters. The officials should take necessary action and provide security if and when cases of harassment are reported.
Bhattacharjee and her team had conducted a small survey of 83 women in three districts of Assam- Sonitpur, Nagaon and Biswanath and they found that no one ever asks women about these basic things and that it is a very neglected topic in Assam.
She said that they have conducted a small survey in their own capacity as they are still a very new organization, however, the government needs to commission a bigger survey as they have better resources.
“Now we will be celebrating women’s day, but we forget about women who have to battle for basic necessities. This is something that is actually in need, and no one is talking about it. You have films that talk about toilets and we have a film that recently won an Oscar for periods, but in our homes, we forget to even talk about these basic facilities,” said Bhattacharjee.
In a positive step forward, Bhabesh Kalita, minister of state for Irrigation Department, Revenue and Disaster Management Department has responded to the petition online.
“I have read the petition thoroughly. It’s a serious issue and it’s good to find that this issue has been raised on such good platform. I will look into the matter,” he wrote on the official page of the petition.
Bhattacharjee said that she is happy that one of the ministers at least gave a positive response and thanked her and her team for bringing it up.
“He responded through the petition on March 6, in the morning and I’ve gotten in touch with him over the email to discuss the issue further and see what we can do. I’m hoping to get an appointment with him so we can move things along,” she said.
Speaking in regard to women’s hygiene, menstruation facilities and flood shelters, Bhattacharjee said that this is not something new, it has always been there.
“It’s something that I found and felt that we need to create more awareness about it. It’s always existed in our society, this is nothing new,” she said.
Currently, the petition has 11,313 signatures. The petitioners’ goal is to get as many signatures as they can for the approval of the project.
Mayuri Bhattacharjeeis a 32-year-old Tezpur-based social worker. She works at the grassroots level on the issue of climate change, menstrual health, gender and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) in Assam and West Bengal. She is a Changemaker from the She Creates Change programme of Change.org. In January 2019, she represented India as a Global Shaper at World Economic Forum.
To contribute, you can sign petition at http://www.change.org/DignityInFloods