By S Stalin
Caritas India introduced a Community Mobilisation (CM) programme for tsunami-affected communities in the Southern part of India. In the Community Mobilisation programme 35 diocesan social service societies in three region and a few other NGOs started working as facilitating partners along with Caritas India.
Looking back at our one-year’s response of successful implementation of this CMT programme it is - we are sure - the energy we put in the field that had yielded fruits. This report is an attempt to analyse the impact of our activities of one year and to give an impression of what CMT team members feel about it.
Community Mobilisation Team
Community mobilisation is a process-oriented approach of Caritas India to strengthen the tsunami-affected communities. Gradually the partners of Caritas India also realised this dream and started acting towards a common goal. In the past, Disaster Management was not a priority of Caritas India but the introduction of CBDP gradually led the way to disaster management.
From the perspective of Caritas India Regional officer (Kerala) Mr. P. M. Philip the situation developed like this, “In the past we were involved with our animation programme to mobilise people, form their CBOs and thus make them politically powerful. These steps were aimed at capacitating them to take up social development issues. But we have not given much focus on disaster management. Today disasters have become a common affair for all people, though it may vary from place to place or time to time. Such disasters cause not only physical losses but also lead to social destruction. Hence whatever we have built through our interventions become nothing with the disasters. In CBDP we are mobilising people around the disasters and empowering them to take up other social issues also. Hence, this approach is of a much more comprehensive nature”.
Disaster Preparedness Measures
Formation of different groups in the focus areas brought the peoples’ involvement in this process. The communities started to head towards the empowering process as planned. All the DSSS (Diocesan Social Service Societies) formed different groups under CMT to make the process smooth. Each and every team has different roles to play in the process of building resilient communities. The task forces team contains:
Disaster management team
Early warning teams
Search & Rescue Teams
Medical & First Aid team
Shelter management team
Damage Assessment team
The name of the groups may differ from place to place but the features are salient and common. The formation of task forces created awareness and strengthened the communities to face in event of any disaster. According to CMT member Mr. James, “the trained task forces began to educate the communities on disaster mitigation measures.” “In some of the villages”, Mr. James said, “the task forces have already worked out a contingency plan to take care of the ‘vulnerable sections’ of the community at times of disasters”.
VIEWS OF COMMUNITY MOBILISATION TEAM MEMBERS
Are We Heading Towards The Right (Or The Same) Direction In The Context Of CMT?
The answer is “yes” and the whole team sticks to this answer without any difference in opinion. This is inevitably a positive sign and something each and every team can dream of. From the beginning of the tsunami relief and rehabilitation programme people showed more of a depending and receiving nature. But the community mobilisation programme brought a radical change in the thinking pattern of communities and put them into action. They found their voice and realised the strength to move together for what they deserve and what they want.
CMT leader Mr. Christy explains, “to a large extent I think we are heading towards the right direction, with region-specific understanding and consideration, in the context of CM. However, intensity of involvement and commitment would vary from partner to partner”.
Caritas India Kerala PSO (Programme Support Officer) Mr. John says, “Community Mobilisation is a process-oriented approach and hence it takes time to get under the skin of the partners like the community leaders, the community members and the other key actors in the field. Till the introduction of the programme, every one was well acquainted with the grant support and hence it was a change in thinking as well as action. With one year of close accompaniment, in most of the target areas, the leaders as well as the community have come to understand the need and urgency of preparedness.”
The sudden change from the rehabilitation phase to the community mobilisation phase created some panic at the partner-level as well as on the community. But according to Caritas India PSO, Mr. Jose, this problem could be solved. “Association with CMT during its first year of existence provides me enough reasons to believe that we are heading towards realising the proclaimed objectives.” Mr. Jose believes, “the staff members and community are gradually switching to a different mode, wherein they attach lesser priority to material benefits. The dependency factor has come down drastically. This was an area of greater concern during initial days and widely reported as a challenge by various partners”
Response Of Implementing Partners & Communities While visiting the focus areas in Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala the response of the people seemed very optimistic and enthusiastic about the Community Mobilisation Programme. It helped to reveal the inner strength of their communities. They started enjoying the bond of being a group and achieving whatever they intended to achieve for their society. Communities realised the meaning of the saying “the strength lies within but you have to believe it”. The whole process of Community Mobilisation helped them to believe that.
The Community Mobilisation Programme is aimed at promoting self-reliant and resilient communities for social transformation in the tsunami-hit villages of India. Capacitating the communities was the main focus in this phase and Caritas India partners were also guided towards this. “It was very much emphasised that the partners needed to make a paradigm shift from their traditional operational role to facilitation/enabler role” says CMT member James. He added, “CMT visited the individual partner along with the respective PSO and conducted workshops on Concept Clarification- Community Mobilisation and ways and means of mobilising the communities. Also, the partners were enabled to focus primarily on orienting communities on the objectives and strategies of the programme, with equal attention to link the initiatives of the first phase with that of the second phase. The partners have been guided to develop an inclusive approach in all their development programmes and activities. The partners started promoting CBOs that include the representatives of the “protected class” namely Dalits, women, children and physically challenged.
Even though the partners were a little bit hesitant to accept the idea of community mobilisation in the beginning, the result they achieved later in their focus areas gradually changed their mindset and inspired them to accept the concept as peoples’ programme “At present implementing partners are happy in reaching the unreached and underprivileged and empowering them to become self-dependent to live a dignified life in developed and self-resilient communities. The communities are very grateful, especially the TFC (Task Force Committee) members, for empowering them in all areas of their life and community” says Mr. Shayam Andhra Pradesh Regional officer for Community Mobilisation.
Caritas India Programme Supports Officer (PSO) Ms. Kavya Vani compliments his view; “in the first year the Community Mobilisation Programme was a preparatory phase as it gave an opportunity to the partners to understand the target community and prevailing issues. The programme focused more on capacitating the community for sustainability without any financial benefits. Though the community was initially apprehensive to this approach, over time they began to realise the focal point of the programme. The Panchayat Leaders, counsellors and local leaders came forward to support the programme. They lent their hands in organising meetings and programmes whenever needed”.
Milan Mandanna, PSO, Caritas India, adds, “though there were initial hiccups by partners, they have now understood the significance of the project and there is also improvement in the involvement and clarity on the project goal by the project staff. From the side of the community, the participation of the whole community is quite low in general; however, some promising advancement is observed. The village leaders, PRI members, are appreciating the programmes and giving their full support to the DSSS.”
Though the Community Based Disaster Preparedness is a new programmatic area and a unique strategy of Caritas India to mobilise the target community, this concept has been successfully propelled by almost all partners in the last one-year of implementation. It suggests that the CMT is heading on track towards realising its mandate.
The Impact Of Our Facilitative Role In The Communities And The Involvement Of Communities In The Process
In the process of CM lots of care and efforts had been taken by Caritas India in planning, designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating. Due to that utmost care and commitment of the partners the community-based programmes have become peoples’ programmes and the communities are shouldering the responsibility of making their villages, sustainable.
“In the past we have been going by ourselves organising people and motivating them to take up social issues so that the local problems are addressed”, says Mr. P.M. Philip. “But in CBDP we are trying to organise people, capacitate them and trying to associate them with the local governing structures. This helps bridging the existing gap between the people and the governing structures so that the development of an area will become the common agenda of the people and the government. We expect that this association will lead to true democratic practices. Also the effects will be lasting and sustainable.”
There are different methods used to understand the real problems faced by the communities. The Participatory Rural Appreciation (PRA) exercises provided a platform and opportunities for various categories of people to come together and share their experiences in regard to the community realities. It helped the communities to become aware of the ground realities and their roots and is thus leading them to make collective decisions and to be involved in continuous struggles for changing the current backwardness of the communities.
Andhra Pradesh Regional officer for Community Mobilisation, Mr. Shayam Sundar, puts it like this, “in the present phase SOA -2 the communities are fully aware of the purpose of the programme. Community mobilisation has become people centred; this has been done by the people, for the people and with the people. Communities are actively involved in planning, monitoring, implementing and evaluating the programme”.
Communities gained confidence in Disaster Management before, during and after a potential disaster by utilising the local and other government resources and services. They developed good linkages and rapport with local people’s representatives and government officers in the programme villages and succeeded in identifying and obtaining resources from the government. Moreover, an increase in women’s participation in the social issues is also a remarkable change in the mindset of the people.
The communities with the assistance and support of the field staff started to establish linkages with the key stakeholders such as PRIs (Panchayati Raj Institutions), government departments and other service organisations and institutions working in the area.
Caritas India has been making conscious efforts to incorporate gender concerns as a cross-cutting issue of the entire process. The partners in Tamilnadu had conducted a study on the situation of gender both in the organisation and communities. Series of workshops and seminars have been organised at regional and partners’ levels on developing indicators and gender mainstreaming for the partners to critically look into the current status of men and women in the society. Various analyses like situational analysis; gender and vulnerability mapping paved the way to formulate the projects for the coming years.
Community Mobilisation team organised an input session on gender mainstreaming to the Directors of DSSS during the coordination meting held in Changanacherry Social service Society in Kerala. Input was given by Mr. Baiju P.V, Gender consultant for Kerala region followed by the presentation of Ms. Teresa on Caritas’ perspective on gender mainstreaming in the context of SOA II. Main focus was on having and implementing gender-mainstreaming strategies at organisation level. It is decided that all partners and regional forum will have gender policy by July 08 and will ensure the implementation of the same.
We have organised inter-region gender consultants meeting in Chennai to have systematically defined way forward for gender mainstreaming initiatives in the context of SOA II. More over this meeting was to have a shared understanding among the consultants and team members on gender mainstreaming initiative in the context of SOA II, more clarity on Caritas’ perspective on gender frame work and role of DSSS and defined way forward for gender mainstreaming.
"As a part this programme, Caritas India had appointed Gender consultants in all three regions (Mr. P.V Baiju for Kerala, Ms. Beluah for Tamilnadu and Ms. Madhavilatha for Andhra Pradesh) to help the DSSS in the process of mainstreaming gender in the Community Mobilisation activities. We have prepared guidelines for assessing gender sensitivity of the proposals and had reflections on future handholding during the meeting. Reliability of data collected at organisational level was questioned and persistent effort of Caritas India is highly appreciated,” says Teresa Sebastian, Gender Coordinator, Community Mobilisation.
Some Specific Contributions CMT Members Have Made For The Success Of CMT
Commitment and motivation gained from the teamwork helped the team-members to make some remarkable contributions for the success of the Community Mobilisation Programme. Each and every team played a vital role in the area of their special operation and in the overall success of the project as well. A few examples are given below:
Efforts to arrive at a common and shared understanding of the project perspective.
Team building efforts – in order to channel the team’s expertise of accompanying the partners in a systematic and organised manner.
Building/developing a framework for all the programmes – meetings, trainings, planning, project implementation etc.
Overall facilitation of partners / staff capacity building.
Sorting out partners’ and staff problems which are programme related and that are brought to the notice of the Regional office.
Taking up initiatives to strengthen the Andhra Regional Forum.
Improving the partners’ responsibility towards reporting. (Mr. Shayam Sundar, Andhra Pradesh Regional officer for CM)
Ensuring the PRA exercises are done using maximum tools and are documented properly
Making all the PRAs done by partners into village-wise booklets in certain DSSS”.
The Visible Change You Could See Or Feel In The Community.
The Community Mobilisation team witnessed major changes around the focus-communities within one year of implementation of the Community Mobilisation Programme. Mr. Shayam Sundar says, “definitely the present focus-communities will set an example to other communities and to their younger generations in managing the disasters and build self-resilient communities.” And he adds an example to affirm this statement, “when floods occurred in Andhra Pradesh during November 2007, villagers collected a fistful of rice each as a donation for the flood affected villages”. Mr. John evaluates this as an “emergence of leadership in the community in form of task force members and their involvement during the last monsoons and sea erosion and also in addressing the development needs of the community.” This is an excellent example of visible changes. A few changes noticed by CMT members are given below:
The active participation (articulation, affirmation, conviction) of community members in needs assessment during the planning exercise is a visible change among the people.
Willingness to involve children in development activities thereby making them agents of change and a trend among children to gain leadership qualities and acquire disaster preparedness skills
Drastic reduction in intra and inter-village conflicts at Kottar in Tamilnadu.
Support so far received from the Panchayat- the Muttatr Panchayat at Kuttanad has summoned a special Grama Sabha for the selection of task force members, under the auspices of Changanassery Social Service Society (CHASSS) in Kerala.
The collaboration built up with the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) and line departments and also with the other actors is a good example of the changes taken place.
A fine example of the developmental activities already initiated and taken up by the newly emerged leaders is that the minister had invited the task force members at Kollam for discussions, in the place of political party leaders of the area on developmental issues.
PSO Milan Mandanna explains, “in Poovanthoppu, a Dalit village in Nagapattinam where people depend on saltpans for their livelihood and have been bonded to the saltpan owners, significant changes have taken place. There is a good network established with the government. Relationship between CBOs and local government and DSSS seem to have significantly improved. A few government departments started treating the DSSS and community with respect and the community recognised that they could collectively take up their issues.”
Swimming classes for girls and ladies initiated by Cochin social service society are yet another example of efforts undertaken by the task force members.
The Difficulties and Constrains Have Faced In the Field
The uncertainties felt in the beginning, doesn’t exist any more and hence at present there is not much of a difficulty in this regard. Communities’ priority to material benefits and dependency factor was a major area of concern in the beginning.
Change of Directors and frequent change of point persons are the one of the main difficulties faced during the last year of the Community Mobilisation programme. The frequent changes always affected the flow of the programme. It still happens in some DSSS.
Expectation (or rather attitude) of partners to have a capital-intensive programme and hence unrealistic planning of budget was another major difficulty faced by the team.
Up Scaling Finance Management Through Tally Synchronisation
Tally synchronisation is an initiative introduced in the dioceses that comes under Community Mobilisation programme. The advantage of having a synchronised accounting system for all the partners will help to make the accounting of the SOA-II phase programmes easier and consolidation of region-wise and entire diocese-wise reports can be generated from the tsunami coordination office. Comparison of budget and activities will be an additional advantage in the synchronisation process. Transparency in accounting is another key feature in this package. It helps to generate the reports much faster, speeding up the process of auditing.
Caritas India has provided new Tally package for 23 dioceses and an upgrading package for five dioceses as part of an effective Synchronisation Programme.
Strategic And Systematic Gender Integration
Workshops and trainings were conducted for the partners as well as the team members to build up a shared and common understanding on gender mainstreaming in the context of the SOA II phase. This self-exploratory workshops was a collective search and of introspection to look at the Caritas level – its position on gender mainstreaming, to realise at what level Caritas India is in and how this organisation is going to move and to look at the larger commitment towards society and how it is going to place itself in the broader context.
There were input sessions on gender, gender mainstreaming, gender divisions of labour, patriarchy, gender analysis, gender policy, practical and strategic gender needs and gender mainstreaming in terms of its goal, need, process, principle, pre-requisite, strategies and indicators. Subsequently the team had analysed the Community Mobilisation Programme - its goal, objective, strategies and activities & community situation with gender lens and the constraints and opportunities at CMT level and partner level to push the agenda in gender mainstreaming.
Community Participation In The Project Planning
Participating community in the project planning process is an experimental initiative taken by CMT. Even though the partners were a little doubtful about the success of this idea the implementation proved successful and was very well appreciated by partners and the communities. This planning process helped us to reach the project components in the field level even before its implementation. In the beginning, only the very person in charge was aware of the details; but now even the field level staff as well as the community is aware of it.
Systematisation In The Project Management
Systematisation in the project management is another key issue in this part of the programme. Systematic approach and understanding of the project is the aim of it. Some of the means used to achieve this is given below:
Regular Staff meetings
Reporting and feedbacks
Monitoring and accompaniment
Periodic review through coordination meetings
The last one year of Community Mobilisation is a period of developing new concept on perspective building, common understanding and ground work. Caritas India has been ever encouraging to test out initiatives with quality-addition and thus all the attempts of CMT in the last one year were organic in nature. Now CMT is looking forward to continue the spirit of partnership and cooperation with all its partners in the second phase.
The focus and thrust of CMT in the continuation phase would be as follows:
Developing a participatory tool to periodically review and monitor the project processes and impacts to ensure that the project is implemented as per the proposal. This will be done with outmost participation of the community members at Community level, DSSS level and CMT level.
Document the various initiatives and learning and make them available for mutual learning and replication, as per SOA manual, LFA – Handbook for project management and Documentation of gender mainstreaming etc.
Experiment and develop participatory Models through expert support such as Livelihood strategies, Community water and sanitation and competence centres.
The last one year of Community Mobilisation programme of Caritas India achieved its target in a certain extent apart from the difficulties and constrains faced in the initial stages. With the last one year of Community Mobilisation programme we were able to make an impact in the communities we worked and the next two year of programme will be crucial in establishing our idea of building self reliant and resilient communities in the focus areas. Certainly the present focus communities will set an example to other communities and other organisations in managing the disasters and build resilient communities.