(Pictures, Source: Google)
Witnessing the prevailing norm around the country, various social issues such as injustice, discrimination, poverty and inequality seem deeply ingrained into Nepalese socio-cultural fabric. Making right policies is not quite enough as the real drivers of possible solution or at least the indicators of their success lie at the bottom layers of our own society.
In a nutshell, grass-roots movement is the key to the successful implementation of such policies. Along the same line, preparedness for disaster, natural or otherwise, is also one of such issues which seek multi-dimensional approach of awareness campaigning, education as well as capacity building practices at the grass roots level.
In the aftermath of the Gorkha Earthquake 2015, as the entire nation realizes its sheer lack of preparedness and disaster resilience, urgent need of a comprehensive coordinated approach towards capacity building at the central as well as at local levels is clearly evident. In our society, especially remote villages of Nepal, local communities, clubs or public schools indeed might serve as a bridging mechanism to inject community welfare messages to the people.
We must put education in driver’s seat to propagate the message of disaster preparedness and capacity building. Learning the geological landscape of the country and the looming inevitable disaster risks, we sadly inherit, it is even more critical to spread disaster awareness messages as well as the need of small initiatives at every level of society including communities, neighborhoods as well as families and individuals.
Disaster preparedness at personal and community level is very important in today’s time. The message of preparedness and its importance is also closely intertwined with our communities, schools, businesses or our social education offshoots in general.
Basically the awareness message is usually designed so as to trigger a plain conversation or may be a simple discussion within our family or neighborhoods to keep us prepared and equipped against disasters including earthquake, flood, fire, landslide, lightening, etc.
Further the outcome of such root level interactions would probably pose some basic questions such as, what are the locally occurring natural or human caused hazards?, what are the vulnerabilities faced by our houses, schools, organizations, businesses, neighborhood or community?, what could be the level of impact in the event of a real disaster?, what supplies, equipment and human resources we might need to mitigate the damages and loss?, Can we have insurance against our losses?, Are there any precautions we could take?, Any local emergency response agencies available nearby that we could contact or coordinate with?, do we know who to contact and how they could help us?, etc.
Series of such sequential questions, pertaining to the safety and well-being of our local communities, should then drive the participants find the majority of solutions within their own discussions and probably in reach.
After the extended catastrophes of the Gorkha Earthquake, the disaster resiliency at the local level is and must be one of the major concerns of today’s Nepal. It is true that the Government is largely responsible to play a vital role and fulfill the paramount priorities but we definitely cannot wait for years for it to happen.
There are certain things that can be done locally by the people within a community, organization, neighborhood or a public school. Rather than expecting everything to trickle down from above, we also need ‘Bottom-Up’ approach where community leaders, teachers, youths and students would get involved in real action to make their society resilient.
Although, it is encouraging and highly commendable when the authoritative bodies and other agencies support our communities and public schools to develop their capacity, the resilience in true sense starts when the people on the floor are willing to start talking about the issues and ready to take necessary actions.
Capacity building is not just about accumulating resources and making fancy plans of their timely mobilization. It starts with deep awareness of the people involved within the community or organizations, their vision for a safer society as well as a disaster resilient culture which then sets the foundation of a solid capacity building process.
Numerous agencies including the Government of Nepal have been advocating, formalizing and implementing the local level disaster preparedness plans, policies and projects for years now. To support the cause, hundreds of public schools were retrofitted for earthquake resistance, flood early warning systems have been put in many places and thousands of community safety & awareness-raising programs are being conducted in various parts of the country, etc.
Nevertheless, the disaster resilience programs are successful only when the people within the community, organizations or schools start taking the ownership of the initiatives. Hence accountability, monitoring and evaluation of their usefulness would follow with adequate transparency.
It definitely helps to scale up the efforts when community leaders, intellectuals, youths and individuals of society are aware of the urgent need of the issue, are seriously involved to address them and are also eager to actively contribute in developing their own disaster resilience. On a conscious level, people are largely aware of the fact but the message needs to penetrate further into our collective subconscious so that the disaster resilience practice would become business as usual throughout the country.
From the years of past experiences in the field, we, as a society, have come to realize that capacity building might not succeed if we focused on ‘Top-Down’ approach alone and forgot to do the needful at grassroots level.
We, as an individual, community and the entire nation, have to be able to set examples and replicate the same to practically depict that if seriously pursued, a plain and simple conversation can also lead us to find resilient solutions within our reach. The result might not be a perfect one but yet we know that the solution lies within, only if we care to see it, talk about it and act upon it with enough perseverance.
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