Spartans of Potuakhali

Shobita Howladar of Potuakhali
Photo: Nusrat Amin/ActionAid

“Obscurity started to intensify to a point where darkness shrouded the entire village of Kolapara.” That was the omen of the ruthless storms arrival. “Have you ever witnessed such darkness where your own hand seems like a stranger to you?” said Lipi Mitro while sipping on her tea. I had the privilege of having a tea-date with three outstanding women champions in emergency response. These women came to attend the National Sharing on “Grassroots women led emergency preparedness and response,” on the 17th June, 2013.

Their entire community had witnessed the dreadful consequences of the cyclone Sidr in 2007. The community got cautioned by the government about the Tropical Storm Mahasen. Post warnings, the community had arranged meetings where they discussed on storing the important documents and to seek shelter in the school building as there are no storm shelters in their locality. “This time we will not bow down at the merciless storm. Mohasen could be the king but we are the worriers of our little kingdom Potuakhali,” said Shobita Hawladar when she was asked to share about her experience regarding the storm.

Tropical Strom Mahasen hit the coastline of Bangladesh in morning of the 16th May 2013 and passed through Barguna, Patuakhali and Bhola districts. The storm ravaged thousands of shelters and latrines and destroyed agricultural crops. However, the number of casualties was 12 hence the media coverage was significantly low. BUT… the fact remains that these people are living at a minimum have lost their minimal and they are now exposed to catastrophic livelihood options.

According to the information collected approximately 100 homes of our sponsored children were totally destroyed. Since sponsored children are at the centre of our local rights programme, it is our responsibility to take stand besides the families of these children by providing support to help them repair and rebuild their houses as safe shelter.

Women have already demonstrated their leadership qualities on various issues in the community. We took this as an opportunity to introduce women leadership in emergency response; this will in future provide guidance across the ActionAid Federation. We gave orientation on what and how the entire process of repairing and rebuilding would be done. Twenty community women have been selected for the emergency response. The women were divided into implementing and procurement groups (video). We just monitored the process so that the spirit of woman leadership is not compromised.

Today, I have the courage to battle natural disasters. I have learned how to do needs assessment and carry out budgeting for building a shelter. I even can name all the procurement of materials that are required to build a home. I’ve shared the same knowledge as my husband. Today I can vouch to go to any part of the world to extend my hand to people who are in dire need

- said Shobita Howladar with poise.