The Jhai Foundation has modelled a Char Development Programme for four Barpeta villages based on internet research on disaster management programmes.
Every monsoon, when the Brahmaputra overflows, it causes severe flooding and soil erosion through the length of Assam, displacing millions of humans, animals and destroying all in its course. The worst-affected are the chars (sandbars) and chaporis (river islands). Having borne decades of ravaging by the river, the people of Assam have resigned themselves to the recurrent disaster. Life must go on, they know, but putting up a brave face is easier said than done.
On an average, 8-12 lakh people are affected by the floods in Assam every year. More than 39% (31.05 lakh hectare) of the state’s total area (78.523 hectare) has been assessed as “flood-prone”. Some of the worst-affected chars are Uttar Godhani, Tapajuli Pather and Mazidbhita in Barpeta district; Kalartop, Duramari and Barakhat in Kamrup district; Rupsi, Lakhipur and Matia in Goalpara district and Chapor in Dhurbri district.
Volunteers from the Jhai Foundation did month-long research on disaster management programmes of Unicef and other organisations. They then devised a Char Development Programme for four Barpeta villages — Tapajilu Pather, Mazidbhita, Balikuri NC and No 4 Bhera
The volunteers empower the char residents by teaching them coping mechanisms they have gleaned from the internet. The focus is on rebuilding houses and buildings, alternate methods of farming and behavioural changes required in the aftermath of floods.
The team watches flood and disaster management videos on YouTube, saves them offline and make notes to refer to while explaining things to village community in the local languages. They also show the villagers YouTube videos on how people in Nepal and Bangladesh deal with floods.
The volunteers empower the char residents with internet wisdom on rebuilding houses and buildings, alternate methods of farming and behavioural changes required in the aftermath of floods
When the floods hit, survival is primary. Education, naturally, takes a backseat. The overall literacy rate in Assam’s char areas is less than 20%, while the female literacy rate is less than 15%. It’s a no-brainer why.
The programme is also helping get children back to school, or rather, educating them wherever possible. They have roped in Hafiz Ahmed, the principal of a higher secondary school in Guwahati, to teach them English twice a month via Skype.
When it rains, these Skype classes are held in a boat! The boat has been modified to add a bamboo structure with a roof to protect them from the rain and can accommodate 40-50 students
Another bane in the flood-ravaged region is child trafficking and child marriage. According to a 2014 report of the Assam Health Department records, Barpeta has the highest rate of child marriage in the state, at 54%.
Thanks to WhatsApp and a vigilant youth from the area, the Foundation has been able to intervene in this issue as well. Local youth Illiyas Rahman alerts the team via WhatsApp whenever a child marriage is being planned in the area. They then take up the case with the state administration and get the marriage stopped. This initiative has reportedly saved more than 15 children from early marriages.
FactoryDaily recently published a story on how Illiyas Rahman’s Facebook campaign saved a girl from child marriage and she was sent back to school.
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